The NBA is one of the biggest sports leagues in the world, and I have been a fan for nearly three decades.
The average salary in the NBA is around $7.5 million. Most of us can only dream of earning this much money, and that amount is still small change compared to what the major stars of the league can earn. Some contracts can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and there are lucrative sponsorship deals to take into consideration.
Success in the NBA can lead to ludicrous wealth. However, managing money is a more valuable skill than earning money. This article will cover some players who were not able to hang on to their money. Their stories now serve as a warning to young players entering the league.
1. Latrell Sprewell
- NBA Draft: 24th pick in the 1st round of the 1992 Draft
- NBA Career: 1992-2005
- Accolades: All-NBA first team and 4-time All-Star
- Career Earnings: $97,060,000
Latrell Sprewell was one of the best shooting guards of the 90s. He could take it to the rim and shoot from beyond the three-point line.
Despite being picked 24th in the 1992 NBA Draft, Sprewell showed a lot more potential than his lowly draft position suggested.
As a rookie, he averaged 15.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists. This was good enough to be in the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
Sprewell was an extremely athletic and talented player. However, he was a hothead. On December 1, 1997, he choked coach P.J. Carlesimo. This led to him getting traded to the Knicks on February 1999.
Latrell would be a solid contributor for the Knicks, and he would help lead them to the 1999 NBA Finals. However, they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in five games.
The Knicks traded Sprewell to the Timberwolves on July 23, 2003, in a multi-team deal. Sprewell would join Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell to form a potent offensive trio.
The three would go as far as the Western Conference Finals where they would be dispatched by the Los Angeles Lakers.
On October 31, 2004, the Minnesota Timberwolves made an offer to Sprewell. It was a three-year, $21 million contract extension. Sprewell felt insulted and declared, "I have a family to feed."
It looks like Sprewell should have taken the offer as he later went broke. Even though Sprewell made nearly $100 million in his career, he spent a huge chunk of it on houses, yachts and child support. He anticipated that other teams would make him offers as the trade deadline approached. Teams like Dallas and San Antonio did make offers, but Sprewell thought the offers were too low. He ended up being out of the league in 2005.
Sprewell now lives very modestly in a rental unit. He lost his houses to foreclosure, and his yacht was repossessed. He also owed the state of Wisconsin $3.5 million in back taxes. His ex-wife suing him for $200 million did not help matters.
2. Kenny Anderson
- NBA Draft: 2nd pick in the 1st round of the 1991 Draft
- NBA Career: 1991-2005
- Accolades: One-time All-Star
- Career Earnings: $63,425,200
Kenny Anderson was the starting point guard for Georgia Tech, and he had an excellent collegiate career where he helped lead the team to the Final Four in 1990.
His many accolades include Consensus First-Team All-American (1991), Second-Team All-American – NABC (1990), Third-Team All-American – AP (1990), two-time First-Team All-ACC (1990, 1991) and ACC Rookie of the Year (1990).
Anderson was the 2nd pick of the 1991 NBA Draft; he was selected by the New Jersey Nets. He was paired up with the 1st pick of the 1990 Draft, Derrick Coleman, to form a devastating duo.
Anderson was a double-double machine in points and assists, and his running mate, Coleman, was a double-double machine in points and rebounds. While the duo was good, the East was stacked, so they had a hard time getting out of the first round.
Anderson would then be traded to the Charlotte Hornets with Gerald Glass for Khalid Reeves and Kendall Gill. He would leave in the off-season and join the Portland Trailblazers where he would spend nearly two seasons.
Afterwards, Anderson was traded to the Toronto Raptors. Since he did not want to play for them, he was flipped to the Boston Celtics. After his lengthy stint with the Celtics, he was traded to the Seattle Supersonics and spent the rest of his career bouncing around the league. He ended his NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Anderson earned more than $63 million in his NBA career, but he lived a lavish lifestyle. He had 11 cars at one point. He had multiple DUIs, which certainly dented his bank account. He fathered seven children with four different women. His child support payments, along with the alimony to his three ex-wives, has severely depleted his earnings. All of these issues, combined with leeching family and friends, led to Anderson filing for bankruptcy in 2005.
3. Antoine Walker
- NBA Draft: 6th pick in the 1st round of the 1996 Draft
- NBA Career: 1996-2012
- Accolades: NBA champion, 3-time All-Star and All-Rookie first team
- Career Earnings: $108,142,015
Antoine Walker was one of the top prospects in the country. He was the starting forward for the national champion Kentucky Wildcats under Rick Pitino. He was drafted as the 6th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Celtics. 1996 had one of the best draft classes of all time. It featured names such as Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
In 1997, Walker would be reunited with coach Pitino and former collegiate teammate Ron Mercer in Boston. 1998 would be pivotal for the Celtics as they drafted Paul Pierce; he and Walker formed a deadly combination. They got as far as the Eastern Conference Finals where they fell to the New Jersey Nets.
After his departure from Boston, Walker drifted around the league as he was involved in many trades. He would have stints with Dallas, Atlanta, Miami and Minnesota.
Walker would finally get his championship in 2006 when he joined forces with Shaquille O' Neil and Dwyane Wade. Walker would earn more than $108 million in his career, but he lost it all due to a lavish lifestyle of big homes, cars, supporting his entourage and bad real estate investments. He also had some legal issues that led to him paying some heavy fines and settlements.
He also lost a huge chunk due to gambling. Being a Chicago native, Walker was a fan of Michael Jordan. Unfortunately, instead of copying Jordan's drive and competitive fire, he copied Jordan's gambling habits.
In May 18, 2010, Walker filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If he only managed his finances well, he could have been set for life. At least he found some work as a basketball analyst in recent years.
4. Larry Johnson
- NBA Draft: 1st pick in the 1st round of the 1991 Draft
- NBA Career: 1991-2001
- Accolades: 2-time All-Star, All-NBA second team and Rookie of the Year
- Career Earnings: $83,132,856
Larry Johnson was the Zion Williamson of his day. He was an undersized power forward who could dribble, mix it up from down low and shoot it from the outside.
He was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets as the 1st pick of the 1991 NBA Draft, and he made an immediate impact as he was named Rookie of the Year. He would form a menacing front court with Alonzo Mourning the next season. Their supporting cast was Dell Curry, Muggsy Bogues and Kendall Gill.
The most memorable moment of the duo was during Game 4 in the first round of the 1993 Playoffs with the Boston Celtics. Johnson and Mourning eliminated the Celtics, led by McHale and Parish, in four games.
Johnson and Mourning began to have friction, and this was not good for the organization. The Hornets would trade Mourning to the Miami Heat on November 3, 1995. They would later trade Johnson to the New York Knicks on July 14th, 1996.
Johnson had five seasons with the Knicks before ultimately retiring in 2001 due to back problems. His most memorable moment was a 4-point play during Game 3 of the 1999 Playoffs. He would help lead the Knicks to the 1999 Finals where they would eventually fall to the Spurs.
Johnson was quite the ladies man; he would father five children with four different women. His child support payments, as well as the lavish NBA lifestyle, drained his finances and left him broke. His early retirement prevented him from earning more money. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015 as he owed $120,000 in child support. He had to offer his home in California to reconcile the debt.
5. Dennis Rodman
- NBA Draft: 27th pick of the 2nd round of the 1986 Draft
- NBA Career: 1986-2000
- Accolades: 5-time NBA champion, 2-time All-Star and 2-time All-NBA third team
- Career Earnings: $26,255,000
Dennis Rodman was the bad boy of the NBA. He was best known for his time with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls. With the Pistons, he captured two titles. With the Chicago Bulls, and Michael Jordan, he captured three titles.
Dennis was once an airport janitor, but he rose to fame and fortune with his NBA career. He was a perennial rebounding champion, and he led the league in seven straight seasons. He also captured the Defensive Player of the Year award twice. For his career, Rodman averaged 7.3 points per game and 13.1 rebounds per game.
Rodman was a colorful character. He was even part of World Championship Wrestling under the New World Order faction. There was even a match where he teamed up with Hulk Hogan to challenge Diamond Dallas Page and Karl Malone.
Rodzilla made a tidy sum during his time in the league; he earned nearly $27 million. This does not include other gigs and endorsements. He lost most of his money to a scam perpetrated by Peggy Ann Fulford on professional athletes. He also lost a good portion of his wealth to his lavish partying lifestyle; he claimed he would spend as much as $31,000 a month. Not helping matters were child support payments, fines for his on-court behavior, and lawsuit settlements. Rodman was also very charitable and gave money to the needy on a regular basis.
In 2014, he filed a court document stating that he was broke and could no longer pay child support. He owed about $800,000 in child support as well as $50,000 in spousal support.
© 2020 Jan Michael Ong
Jan Michael Ong (author) from Metro Manila, Philippines on November 02, 2020:
Dora the league now has financial education programs to help young athletes learn managing money.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 02, 2020:
Sad stories! To have so much and lose it may be worse than having little and keeping it. These guys needed mentors, it seems.