The terms “fame” and “fortune” are now commonly associated with professional athletes.
Many high profile athletes in all sectors of sport are regularly in the news, and with the widespread access to the internet today, many fans have the opportunity to know more about their favorite stars than ever before. What this means is that fans can see their fave stars in real time on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook living out their newly lavish lives.
In terms of of the fortune part, many of these same high profile athletes make obscene amounts of money during their athletic career, but few have the knowledge or wherewithal to deal with the day-to-day management of said financial windfalls.
Through having too many “yes” people around, to poor financial advice, dubious investments and just plain largesse and stupidity — fueled in many instances by drug and alcohol abuse — many go into the red before they know it.
A novel could be filled with the financial foibles of these former well-compensated superstars exposed as mere mortals after blowing it all in retirement.
Here are 20 high profile sports athletes who have hit fiscal, as well as personal, rock bottom in retirement.
20. Michael Vick—NFL Quarterback
Even though former NFL star quarterback Michael Vick made $37 million in guaranteed money alone in 2005, according to Matt Winkeljohn of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Vick declared bankruptcy in 2008 while spending time in prison for operating a dog fighting venture. Among Vick’s creditors were the Atlanta Falcons, the team Vick played for at the time (to the tune of $3.5 million), Joel Enterprises, an organization that was run by his former agent, Andrew Joel, as well as the Royal Bank of Canada. In all, Vick’s debt was $20 million. Vick got into financial trouble because he made bad business decisions, was sued by Joel for leaving his company, received poor advice from financial advisers and was paying family members $30,000 a month.
19. Latrell Sprewell—NBA Shooting Guard
“Spree”earned a very healthy $100 million during his professional basketball career with the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Minnesota Timberwolves from 1992-2005. Yet, just two years after retiring, Latrell Sprewell had a $1.5 million yacht seized and would later lose mansions in New York and Milwaukee. Sprewell’s lack of appreciation for the insane amount of money he made earned him headlines in 2005. With the Timberwolves at the time, he turned down a three-year contract extension worth $21 million, believing he deserved more money and arguing that, “I have a family to feed.” Sprewell was cut by Minnesota shortly after. One big reason Sprewell got involved in financial problems is because he failed to make mortgage payments, like regular folk who earn a lot less money do every day. He was also sued for $200 million by the mother of four of his children, according to Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Gate.
18. Bernie Kosar—NFL Quarterback
In the 1980’s, Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Bernie Kosar was simply one of the very best in the National Football League. In 1986, 1987, and 1989, he led the Browns to the AFC Championship only to lose to the Denver Broncos each time. In 1987, Kosar had a Pro Bowl season and a career high 22 touchdown passes playing in a strike shortened year. Away from the field though, Kosar had problems managing his money. Apparently, Kosar had but $44 in his chequing account when he filed for bankruptcy in 2009. His top creditors were Florida Bank, to which he owed $9.7 million, and KeyBank, where he was on the hook for $3.2 million. He was also involved in a costly divorce. Kosar said he “misplaced trust and reliance on those close to him to manage his businesses and finances,” according to www.cleveland.com.
17. Curt Schilling—MLB Pitcher
In 2010, three years after his retirement from Major League Baseball, former all-star pitcher Curt Schilling got heavily involved in the entertainment industry. Schilling was the owner of 38 Studios, a Rhode Island-based company that specialized in video games. According to the Financial Post, the Rhode Island Economic Development Agency approved a $75 million loan to 38 Studios in 2010. Schilling owned 83% of the company. However, 38 Studios would became a financial disaster for Schilling, who lost $50 million on the gaming firm according to ABC News. In 2012, Schilling’s company filed for bankruptcy, with 38 Studios ceasing operations and putting 379 employees out of work. Filings show Schilling did not earn a wage from the company and according to the former star hurler, he lost all the money he earned playing baseball over his 20-year career. Schilling was forced to sell many personal items and was sued by the state of Rhode Island.
16. Rocket Ismail—Wide Receiver
In 1991, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail made headlines when he decided to play in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts rather than playing in the National Football League. Ismail, who was projected to be the first overall pick in the NFL draft, signed a four-year deal worth $18 million to come up north of the border instead. According to the Business Insider, Ismail’s career earnings during his time playing football (he went to the NFL in 1993) was between $18-$20 million. However, Ismail made a series of bad business decisions where several companies he invested in failed, and declared bankruptcy shortly after his career ended.
15. Sheryl Swoopes—WNBA Player
Sheryl Swoopes was the face of women’s basketball in the late 1990’s. Not only was Swoopes a recognizable and bankable superstar in the newly formed WNBA, she was the first female athlete to get her own Nike shoe. In all, Swoopes career earnings were $50 million, but due to complete mismanagement of her income Swoopes declared bankruptcy in 2004. While playing with Seattle in 2009, Swoopes even had problems paying rent on her apartment. While many players in the WNBA earned a modest income, Swoopes’s overall income (with lucrative endorsements thrown in) was simply extraordinary.
14. Lawrence Taylor—NFL Linebacker
Lately, pro football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor has got his stuff back together (seemingly) and has appeared on football broadcasts. In the 1980’s, he was one of the most intimidating players in the entire National Football League while playing for the New York Giants. A 10-time Pro Bowler, Taylor was the Associated Press Most Valuable Player in 1986. In 1986 and 1990, he won Super Bowls with New York. Off the field, though, Taylor lived a life filled with drug and alcohol abuse. That wonton behavior led to three separate stints in prison since his retirement for such things as drug possession, and another charge for assaulting an underage teenage prostitute in 2011 (he is registered as a low risk sex offender). In 2009, financial woes caught up to Taylor, forcing him to file for bankruptcy protection to avoid foreclosure on his New Jersey home.
13. Marion Jones—Olympic Track and Field Star
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Marion Jones was the face of the American Olympic team. She won five medals, including a gold medal in the women’s 100m. But she was later stripped of all medals for her involvement in the infamous BALCO scandal, and spent six months in prison for lying to federal prosecutors for her use of performance enhancing drugs. During the prime of her career, Jones earned $80,000 per race and another million dollars in endorsements and race bonus deals, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, along the way Jones was penalized $330,000 for missing races, had spent in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and had $240,000 in unpaid training expenses. When Jones filed for bankruptcy in 2007, she only had $2,000 to her name.
12. Evander Holyfield—Boxer
A four-time world heavyweight boxing champion, Evander Holyfield held concurrently the WBC, WBA, and IBF championship belts in 1990. In his 57 fights, Holyfield won 44 times and beat high profile names such as Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, George Foreman and Riddick Bowe. While he earned $230 million in career prize money, Holyfield declared bankruptcy in 2012. Holyfield lost his money through gambling, business mistakes, and supporting his 11 children with five different women. At the time of his bankruptcy, Holyfield also had to move from his 109-room Atlanta mansion to a condominium. The lavish abode had 12 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms, a bowling alley, a baseball park, two swimming pools, and an electricity bill of $17,000 per month. In order to improve his financial situation, Holyfield staged what is believed to be the world’s largest sale of sports memorabilia.
11. Mike Tyson—Boxer
For over a decade starting in the mid-1980s, star pugilist Mike Tyson was the most dominant heavyweight fighter, losing one sole bout (to Buster Douglas). At one time, Tyson had an estimated worth of $300 million, but in 2003 Tyson declared bankruptcy. According to the New York Times, he was spending $400,000 per month more than he could afford and had to spend $9 million on legal fees alone from 1995 to 1997. While former fighters like George Foreman were able to make something of themselves in retirement with a positive persona, Tyson’s criminal past — including a rape conviction — is a major reason he has had problems generating income through endorsements and TV deals.
10. Diego Maradona – Soccer
Oft cited as the greatest footballer of all-time, Diego Maradona has had a lot of trouble off the pitch — a lot of it to do with money. Where one time his transfer fees set records (Napoli paid 6.9 million pounds for his rights in 1984), the “Hand of God” goal scorer has been hounded by the Italian government for astronomical sums owed in back taxes accrued from his playing days in Napoli. In 2009, that figure was pegged at 37 million Euro, 23.5 million of which was accrued interest on his original debt. So far, the former superstar Argentine striker has paid back just 42,000 Euro, as well as come expensive jewelry (two watches and some earrings).
9. Antoine Walker – NBA Power Forward
For much of his fairly good NBA career, Antoine “Employee Number Eight” Walker enjoyed the financial fruits of labors that brought him three All-Star nominations and a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. Walker, though, who grew up poor in Chicago, went from the penthouse to the outhouse fast after pulling down more than $108 million during his career. In 2010, just two years removed from his playing days, Walker filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Now counseling other athletes about how to manage money, Walker lost most of his fortune to the usual suspects: cars, jewelry, gambling and real estate. He also gave away a lot of money to family and friends, without a lot of accountability, while the 2008 recession hit his fledgling real estate company hard.
8. Len Dykstra – MLB Outfielder
They didn’t call Len Dykstra “Nails” for nothing. Too bad his exceptional and hard-headed play on the field hasn’t been apparent in his financial dealings. A three-time All-Star and 1986 World Series Champ, Dykstra used his earnings from big league baseball to finance several ventures, some successful, others not so much. His downfall started with the ill-fated purchase of Wayne Gretzky’s L.A. mansion, which he would eventually take a multi-million dollar bath on. Things got so bad for him on the money side he was indicted for bankruptcy fraud in 2011, eventually sentenced to house arrest as part of a plea deal. In another case involving grand theft auto and filing a false financial report, Dykstra was also convicted and spent three years in prison.
7. Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson – NFL Wide Receiver
In a short list of most outspoken and cocky wide receivers to have ever played the game, Chad Johnson is on a very short list. The extremely confident wideout even had has his name changed to the Spanish version of his number “85” and once came up with a “list” called “who covered 85 in ’05.” It was his way of dissing, in small and large part, all defensive backs who had tried to thwart his pass-catching skills. With his eminent talents, then, Johnson made a boat load of money. While he has had innumerable run-ins with the law dealing with domestic abuse allegations, he can’t be doing all that well financially, given that his homeowners association in Florida wanted to foreclose on his home because he’d failed on multiple occasions to pay his association fees, which were estimated at a paltry $2,600 in late 2016.
6. Travis Henry – NFL Running Back
For a while early in the last decade, Travis Henry was an elite level running back for the Buffalo Bills and later with the Tennessee Titans. While details of his early contracts with Buffalo aren’t readily available, Henry did sign a five-year, $23 million contract with Denver in 2007. His estimated career earnings (he never did fulfill the Denver deal, playing only until the end of the ’07 season) were about $20 million and his undoing, other than for drug arrests and incarceration, was fathering way too many children. He is said to be a father of 11 — with 10 different women no less — and with that came multiple support arrangements. His yearly child support bill at one point was near $200,000 and he was once jailed for falling $16,000 behind on one of his children’s payments.
5. Darius Miles – NBA Forward
Long before Blake Griffin and Chris Paul put L.A. Clippers basketball on the map, there was a future “savior” in 2000 third overall pick Darius Miles. Selected right out of high school, he would gain notoriety for being the first high schooler ever to be selected to the First Team All-NBA Rookie Team, being so honored in 2001. During his NBA career, which was cut short due to knee injuries, it is estimated that Miles made upwards of $60 million. As of June 2017, it seems that its gone, replaced with $280,000 in business debts. Having already filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2016, he held a bit of a sad estate sale, selling off nearly everything he owned, but coming up with only $12,000 towards his outstanding debt.
4. Art Schlichter – NFL Quarterback
When all was said and done on Art Schlichter’s too short career in the NFL, gambling was his financial undoing. His addiction is so bad that he is currently doing a 10-year stretch at Club Fed for stealing money to fuel his habit. Drafted fourth overall in 1982 by the Baltimore Colts after being a superstar at Ohio State, Schlichter was already known as a high roller in college, something Colts brass wasn’t wise to when they selected him. Such was his fixation with gambling that he frittered away a then rich $350,000 signing bonus by the midway mark of the ’82 season. He gambled away so much money, and owed so many bookies, he had to go to the FBI and turn state’s witness to get them convicted and off his back. Considered one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history (11 games, three TD passes, 11 INTs) Schlichter’s story should be a cautionary tale told to every potential NFL recruit.
3. Dorothy Hamill – Olympic Figure Skater
With her short, bobbed hair and sunny smile, former Olympic champion figure skater was “America’s Sweetheart” during the 1970s. Pre-Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan shenanigans, Hamill was a beacon of goodness in the skating world and after winning gold in the 1976 Olympics she became a headliner with the Ice Capades, naturally, earning a healthy $1 million per year, starting in ’76. The famous travelling skating show, though, fell on hard times and as its star, Hamill and her husband decided to buy controlling interest in 1993 to try and revive it. But, it still continued to tank and not a year later Hamill and her hubby declared bankruptcy (for which Hamill blamed her spouse for getting her into bad financial situations). She did recover from this calamity and has mentored young skaters as well as penned a best-selling memoir.
2. Terrell Owens – NFL Wide Receiver
Only Chad Ochocinco could compete for “Most Ostentatious Showboat” honors with Terrell Owens. T.O. was a notorious motormouth and over-the-top TD celebrant during his 15-year NFL career, which doubtless rankled the feathers of a few beat writers. We think his exclusion from the Hall of Fame — where he belongs, off-field issues aside — is a pretty egregious oversight. His issues with money, on the other hand, put him in the financial Hall of Shame. A reasonable estimation of his total football income is somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 million, with the usual self-inflicted calamities affecting his bottom line. Owens filed for bankruptcy, just two years removed from his last NFL season (he has since tried to make a comeback), attributing his losses to bad investments, the recession effects on housing and $50,000 a month in child support payments.
1. Darren McCarty – NHL Forward
Much of what ailed former NHL pugilist and four-time Stanley Cup champion Darren McCarty was alcohol related. While he was a stalwart enforcer who wasn’t one-dimensional — he tallied 275 points in 659 games — McCarty, like other guys who had to fight once in a while to keep his job, had a few demons. It was those demons, including gambling, that cost him most of a modest fortune made in hockey, believed to be about $15 million over 15 years. He had to file for bankruptcy in 2006, while he was still a NHLer, and later the IRS accused him of failing to pay his taxes, which is pretty serious stuff. Post-NHL career, McCarty was even featured on a couple of episodes of “Hardcore Pawn”, not as a guest, but as a worker in a pawn shop.