With millions of dollars at their disposal, many athletes spend their paychecks on the finer things in life — fancy cars, giant mansions and blinged-out jewelry. But some pro ballers have used their funds to make some truly odd purchases, from wild animals to five-figure custom beds. These are some of the weirdest ways athletes have spent their money.
Gilbert Arenas: Shark-Infested Mansion
When Gilbert Arenas’ NBA stock started to drop in 2011, the former Washington Wizards star began trying to unload his pricey assets. Among them was his 9,000-square-foot mansion that features seven bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and three massive shark tanks that cost $5,000 a month to maintain, according to Bleacher Report.
Michael Jordan: Elephant-Print Paint Job
It should come as no surprise that basketball legend Michael Jordan has his own private jet — known as the MJ G550 — but he took his plane to the next level when he upgraded it with an elephant-print paint job to match the print on his Jordan shoes. The cost of the paint job hasn’t been reported, but the plane alone costs $61.5 million new, according to SherpaReport.
Mike Tyson: Bengal Tigers
At one point, the world’s most feared boxer bought three of the world’s most feared cats. Mike Tyson’s three Royal Bengal tigers cost $70,000 each upfront, and required $4,000 a month to house and maintain. He eventually was forced to give the majestic predators away, but not before one knocked out Iron Mike’s gold tooth with a head butt, The Telegraph reported.
Antonio Garay: Hello Kitty Smart Car
An athlete splurging on a luxury vehicle is par for the course, but NFL player Antonio Garay didn’t spend his money on a Porsche or Ferrari. The defensive tackle has been spotted driving around in a Smart Car with Hello Kitty decals. The cost of a full-body Hello Kitty wrap starts at $1,700, MotorTrend reported.
Chris Johnson: Gold Teeth
Chris Johnson is famous for two things: being a star running back for the Arizona Cardinals and having a mouth filled with a whole lot of gold. In a 2015 interview, he told his team’s website that growing up, his idols all had gold teeth. In 12th grade, he decided to follow in their bite marks for an undisclosed sum of money.
Chad Johnson: Fish Tank Bed
Before his career suffered a domestic violence-induced downward spiral, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was among the most outrageous personalities in sports history. His antics both on and off the field were legendary, as was his mansion. The centerpiece of his super home was his bed, which was built into a canopy headboard that was a supersized fish aquarium custom built for an undisclosed price by the guys from the Animal Planet show “Tanked,” the Daily Mail reported.
Vince Young: $15,000 at the Cheesecake Factory
NFL star Vince Young is among the saddest cases of athletes who proved that no matter how much money you make, you can always spend more. Among the most absurd purchases, Young made on the road to squandering his $26 million fortune was when he spent $15,000 on one meal at the Cheesecake Factory. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Young said it was the most he ever spent on a meal in his life.
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Marquis Daniels: 3D Necklace of Himself
In a world where athletes are known for extravagant bling, Marquis Daniels might just take the cake — or at least ice the cake. In 2010, the former Celtics guard ordered a 3D laser-etched necklace medallion of his own face crafted from 1,300 grams of gold, which was emblazoned with black, white and cognac diamonds. Although the price was undisclosed, experts estimated at the time that it was a six-figure piece, according to lifestyle blog Baller Status.
DeShawn Stevenson: At-Home ATM
Former NBA shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson has an ATM in his kitchen that he paid a reported $3,500 for, according to TMZ. Stevenson keeps the machine stocked with $20,000 in cash that he refills four to six times a year so that his friends can take out money before a night out. The $3,500 investment could pay for itself, as Stevenson’s machine charges a $4.50 transaction fee. As for why he bought an ATM in the first place, the basketball star told TMZ, “I like doing things that aren’t normal, and it’s cool to have.”
Jarrett Jack: Lots of Shoes
NBA star Jarrett Jack has only two feet. His footwear collection, however, includes roughly 1,500 pairs of shoes and sneakers, many of which are limited edition collectors’ items, according to the Mercury News. His most expensive pair of kicks ran him about $2,000.
With the average cost of sneakers at around $60 — a limited edition pair would obviously cost much more — a conservative estimate of the value of his shoe collection is $90,000.
Lionel Messi: Peace and Quiet
Lionel Messi is the world’s highest-paid athlete — with $127 million in earnings in 2019 alone, according to Forbes — so he can really buy anything he wants. But Messi went to extremes to ensure peace and quiet for himself and his family. The soccer star thought his neighbors in the Castelldefels municipality of Barcelona were too noisy, so he bought their house to add to his estate for an unknown amount, Sports Illustrated reported.
Scottie Pippen: A Lemon Airplane
In 2002, the second-most-famous member of the Chicago Bulls from the Michael Jordan era bought a jet. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the $4.3 million Gulfstream inspected and found out the hard way that it needed $1 million in repairs before it could take to the skies, sports news site The Sports Drop reported.
Shaquille O’Neal: Custom Superman Bed
Shaq is the most dominant center of all time, and at 7 feet tall and 300 pounds, the former Lakers big man needs a big place to rest. His 15-by-30-foot custom Superman bed measured 450 square feet. That’s 100 square feet shy of the average studio apartment in Manhattan.
Terrell Owens: Electronic Bingo
In a 2012 GQ interview, former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens revealed that he had lost nearly all of the $80 million he had earned over the course of his career. He blamed the loss of his money on a series of bad investments and the collapse of the real estate market. One of those bad investments was $2 million he put into an Atlanta entertainment complex that featured electronic bingo machines. The complex turned out to be illegal in the state, and T.O. lost the money he put into it. Owens actually ended up suing his financial advisor for suggesting he invest in the venture in the first place.
Latrell Sprewell: Super Yacht
Latrell Sprewell once famously turned down a $21 million contract because, according to his logic, “I’ve got my family to feed.” A few years later, in 2008, as his home was facing foreclosure, his mega-yacht fetched a little more than half of the $1.5 million he originally paid for it, ESPN reported.
Eddy Curry: Really High Interest on a Personal Loan and More Than $1,000 a Month in Cable Bills
In 2010, Eddy Curry was earning $273,000 a minute. Yet, he found himself pleading for mercy over his default on a 2008 personal loan of more than $500,000 at 85% interest. He cited his $30,000-a-month household expenses, which included a monthly $1,075 cable and satellite television bill, according to ESPN.
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Torii Hunter: Furniture Rafts
Minnesota Twins slugger Torii Hunter dumped $70,000 into an expenditure that wasn’t a purchase but a misguided investment, CBS reported. Hunter gambled that the world would buy into the idea of adorning their homes with inflatable raft furniture in case of a flood, but the invention never made it to the market.
Arian Foster: Segways for His Offensive Linemen
In 2012, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster ran for over 1,000 yards for the third season in a row. Since none of it would have been possible without his offensive line, he bought each of the big guys a Segway, ESPN reported. Since Foster had just signed a $43.5 million contract extension, it stands to reason that he could afford to splurge on the gliding scooters.
Darnell Dockett: Alligators
Retired defensive end Darnell Dockett has a penchant for wild animals and has purchased multiple alligators. In 2011, he tweeted that he had purchased a baby alligator named Nino, and in 2014, he shared a photo on Instagram of another baby alligator that he purchased, which he named Honey. It’s unclear how much he paid to turn his home into a veritable zoo, but some outlets have reported that he paid $500 for Nino.
Joe Namath: Fur Coats
Arguably the most legendary and documented splurge by any sports celebrity came in 1971. Then, headline-grabbing New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath — who shocked the world in 1969 after delivering on an against-all-odds guarantee to win Super Bowl III — appeared on the sidelines with a full-length white fur coat. In 2014, a then-70-year-old Namath followed up the feat by showing up to Super Bowl XLVIII wearing an equally dazzling — and controversial — fur coat that reportedly cost $3,000.
Floyd Mayweather: Sweet 16 Party
Boxer Floyd Mayweather has been paid $275 million for a single fight, according to Forbes, so dropping seven figures on a sweet 16 party for his daughter Iyanna is just a drop in the bucket for him. The over-the-top party he threw in 2016 included performances by Drake and Future, and a personal message from Justin Beiber, TMZ reported. As a gift, Mayweather gave Iyanna a Mercedes G-Wagon, which sells for upwards of $130,000.
Al Jefferson: A Bed Fit for a Giant
Compared to Chad Johnson’s flashy fish-tank bed, Utah Jazz player Al Jefferson’s bed seems downright boring — but it came with quite the hefty price tag. Jefferson paid $23,000 for a 10-by-12-foot bed that could more than comfortably fit his 6-foot-10-inch body, USA Today reported.
Kobe Bryant: Champagne He Didn't Even Drink
The late, great Kobe Bryant once got into an epically expensive champagne war in Las Vegas, TMZ reported. The NBA star was at a club opening at the Wynn when he saw poker player Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari purchase two bottles of Cristal champagne — which were going for $1,400 a pop. Bryant wanted to one-up the gambling pro, so he ordered five bottles. Esfandiari changed his order to 10 bottles, so Bryant ordered 15 bottles — for $21,000 — and then immediately left the club.
Michael Vick: Fish Pond
Former NFL player Michael Vick found himself in legal hot water after being found guilty of dogfighting charges in 2007. In between his conviction and sentencing, Vick was out on bond and went on a giant spending spree, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. This spree was fishy in more ways than one — among his purchases was an $85,000 fish pond.
Warren Sapp: Lion-Skin Rug
When former NFL player Warren Sapp declared bankruptcy in 2012, his list of bizarre assets was made public. This included 240 pairs of Jordan athletic shoes worth almost $6,500, a $2,250 watch and a lion-skin rug worth $1,200, USA Today reported.
J.R. Smith: Armored Military Truck
After signing a four-year, $24 million deal with the New York Knicks, J.R. Smith celebrated by purchasing some new wheels — but he didn’t go the sports car route. Smith was seen driving around New York City in a Gurkha F5, an armored truck typically used by police and the military, Page Six reported. The monster military vehicle is worth around $450,000. And this wasn’t just any armored truck — it’s actually the one driven by The Rock in the film “Fast Five,” USA Today reported.
When asked on Twitter why Smith needed an armored truck he responded, “Im at #War with all #HATERS.”
Joe Johnson: Sneakers Galore
Jarrett Jack is not the only baller with a sneaker hang-up. Jazz small forward Joe Johnson maintains a 500-square-foot closet dedicated exclusively to his hundreds of pairs of kicks, of which Johnson was selected to wear by NBA/sneaker legend Michael Jordan, according to sports news site Bleacher Report. The cost of his collection is unknown, but with an estimated 1,000 pairs of sneakers, his collection would be worth at least $60,000.
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Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.
About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.