The median career earnings for an NBA player is $12.67 million, according to the George Washington University Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center. Despite high salaries, more than 6 percent of all NBA players will go bankrupt within 15 years of retirement.
Fast cars, mega mansions, bad investments and a slew of other irresponsible expenses have turned some of the richest NBA players into bankrupt NBA former players. Generation after generation, ballers often realize too late that the seemingly infinite stacks of cash that come with even mediocre NBA careers are, in fact, quite finite.
Click through to see which players — including some of the league’s highest-paid All-Stars — lost their fortunes to bad luck, bad judgment and bad people.
Money lost: At least $1 million
In 1975, Bill Willoughby was considered the best high school basketball player in America, and he became just the third player in NBA history to make the jump directly from high school to the pros.
His life declined, however, after being released from the New Jersey Nets in 1984. According to NJ.com, Willoughby went broke after claiming a financial advisor mismanaged $1 million of his money. It appears that his luck hasn’t improved much — in 2016, he was arrested after a fight with police.
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Money lost: $1.25 million
Chris Washburn is one of the NBA’s saddest draft busts. Picked No. 3 overall by the Golden State Warriors in 1986, the center played just 72 games in less than two seasons before a drug addiction earned him a lifetime ban from the league.
Washburn was soon homeless and eating out of trash cans before he landed in prison, where he couldn’t even land a starting position on his penitentiary basketball team. The $1.25 million he earned during his short career is gone, but Washburn has since cleaned up his act and is now caring for his ailing mother in his hometown of Hickory, N.C.
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Money lost: $4.4 million
In 2001, David Harrison was playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game with his entire NBA career ahead of him. A little more than a decade later, according to a Yahoo Sports report from 2015, the former first-round draft pick was working at McDonald’s.
Harrison sunk to a new low when, in 2013, a McDonald’s manager reportedly recognized the former center after his credit card was declined while attempting to buy a Happy Meal for his 4-year old son. The manager offered to help him find a job, and the broke Harrison accepted. Drug use, a needy extended family and financial mismanagement all factored into Harrison’s squandering of the $4.4 million he earned in the NBA.
Money lost: At least $6 million
Between 1984 and 2000, Rick Mahorn earned more than $6 million during his time with the Washington Bullets, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers and the Nets. He also earned six-figure salaries through his later work as a broadcaster and basketball coach, according to The Detroit News.
But by 2010, it was all gone. The power forward filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy thanks to a familiar narrative of bad investments, six-figure IRS problems and monthly bills that were more than double his and his wife’s combined income. To top it all off, Yahoo Sports reported at the time that Mahorn even owed $55 to a public library for overdue books.
Money lost: At least $16 million
One of the more recent, and tragic, NBA stories of lost fortune belongs to Delonte West.
West, who played mainly for the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers during his eight-year career, has struggled with mental illness since childhood, according to an interview with The Washington Post. The former 2004 first-round draft pick was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008 during his stint with the Cavs.
After a series of bizarre on- and off-court behavioral outbursts, encounters with law enforcement and unexcused absences, the NBA was finally done with West in 2012. When TMZ posted pictures of a disoriented and shoeless West wandering outside a Houston fast food restaurant in 2016, only $100,000 remained of the $16.23 million he earned as a pro.
Money lost: $18 million
The Seattle SuperSonics drafted 7 foot 1 inch center Robert Swift right out of high school in 2004. He went on to earn more than $18 million over the course of his NBA career, according to Sports Illustrated.
Swift’s life turned ugly after he left the league. By October of 2014, he was broke and living with his drug dealer — essentially existing to feed his all-consuming addiction to meth and heroin.
Swift is currently on the road to recovery, but his fortune is a distant memory.
Money lost: At least $20 million
In 2011, legendary former Chicago Bulls small forward Scottie Pippen sued several news outlets for allegedly reporting that he was broke and bankrupt when he wasn’t.
The seven-time All-Star and six-time NBA champion had a point — he still has a net worth of $50 million today, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Pippen earned more than twice that amount, however, over the course of his 17-year playing career.
Part of the reason for the discrepancy is the $20 million Pippen invested with a shady financial advisor, according to the Chicago Tribune. The advisor was sentenced to three years in prison for fraud in 2016. Although the fraudster was ordered to pay Pippen $400,000 in restitution — and the opposing lawyer claims Pippen recovered some money in bankruptcy court — it’s unclear how much Michael Jordan’s one-time wingman ever recovered.
Money lost: At least $26 million
Dennis Rodman is one of the most recognizable faces in sports. Heavily pierced, flamboyant and unpredictable, Rodman established himself as one of the NBA’s all-time greatest rebounders.
During his 14-year career, the Hall of Famer and five-time NBA champion pulled in nearly $27 million. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he managed to whittle that fortune down to just $500,000.
The well-known party animal succumbed mostly to marital drama, according to ESPN. In 2012, he was sentenced to community service for failure to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support.
Money lost: At least $35 million
Two years after filing for bankruptcy in 2007, ESPN reported that a judge had ordered the arrest of the former Bulls, Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks power forward for failing to pay at least $200,000 in back child support.
The father of 10 children by eight women, Caffey earned $35 million just through his contract with the Warriors. Caffey has remained out of the spotlight recently.
Money lost: $40 million
In 2014, TMZ reported that former small forward Eric Williams had never responded to a court-ordered citation to appear because the notice was never delivered to his home. The reason? Williams, at the time, was homeless and incapable of paying the $24,000 he owed in back child support.
The 12-year NBA veteran and ex-husband of “Basketball Wives” star Jennifer Williams earned nearly $40 million after stints with five teams.
Money lost: $62 million
According to the Daily Mail, Darius Miles — drafted No. 3 overall by the L.A. Clippers in 2000 — earned $62 million over the course of his nine-year career. After a series of injuries, bad investments and legal troubles, he was forced to declare bankruptcy in the summer of 2016.
Money lost: At least $63 million
Former high school phenom Kenny Anderson was the youngest player to enter the NBA at the time when the Nets selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in 1991, according to Forbes. The point guard went on to enjoy a 15-year career with a slew of teams that banked him more than $63 million.
But after seven children, two failed marriages, a mountain of bills from 69 creditors and not nearly enough income to pay for everything, Anderson filed for bankruptcy in 2005.
Money lost: At least $67 million
Eddy Curry was, as CBS Sports put it, “one of the great draft busts of the 2000s.” Yet, despite his mediocre play, Curry was earning $273,000 a minute by 2010, according to Deadspin.
But even that on-court haul was not enough to keep up with the center’s lavish lifestyle. Curry’s debts included $30,000 in monthly household bills, $6,000 a month for a personal chef, $17,000 a month to relatives and dependents and an inexplicable $570,000 loan that he took out in Las Vegas — the only place where the 85 percent interest rate he agreed to is legal.
His current net worth is estimated at $3 million — but he earned $70 million during his time in the NBA.
Money lost: $86.57 million
With an estimated net worth of $5 million, Shawn Kemp is by no means poor — until you consider that the former SuperSonics power forward earned more than $91 million over the course of his career.
Drafted in 1990, Kemp entered rehab for cocaine abuse in 2001 and weighed 317 pounds at the time — up nearly 60 pounds from his playing weight of 260.
In 2005, The Seattle Times reported on his fleet of fancy cars, swanky house and seven children from six different women — indicating that Kemp, despite no longer having a mega fortune, was still living a comfortable life.
Money lost: $87 million
When NBC Sports proclaimed in 2010 that former No. 1 overall pick Derrick Coleman “never quite reached his potential,” the publication was talking about his impact on the court — but the same could be said about his real estate career.
Coleman — who enjoyed a solid career playing mainly for the Nets and 76ers — reportedly invested $87 million of his NBA earnings into a Detroit real estate black hole. He declared bankruptcy in 2010.
Money lost: $100 million
Latrell Sprewell was making $14.6 million a year in 2004 when he uttered six of the most famous words in the history of pro athlete financial dysfunction: “I’ve got my family to feed.” That was Sprewell’s publicly stated logic for turning down a three-year, $21 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Although he was an All-Star forward who led Minnesota to the Western Conference finals in 2004, Sprewell’s best days were behind him. He never received another contract offer, and his post-basketball life spiraled into a familiar fate of mismanagement and careless spending. Yachts and mansions were auctioned off, and, according to Celebrity Net Worth, just $50,000 remains of the $100 million he earned over the course of his 13-year career.
Money lost: At least $100 million
Gilbert Arenas earned more than $160 million during his 11-year career, in which he enjoyed a majority of his success with the Washington Wizards.
But in 2016, TMZ reported that the three-time NBA All-Star was so broke he could no longer afford his child’s $91,600 annual private school tuition. A Business Insider report from 2016 also offers a glimpse into how so much money could just disappear.
The publications alleged that Arenas paid a six-figure landscaping bill to maintain the yard of his $3.5 million mansion and a $5,000 monthly housekeeping bill. Among a variety of other outrageous expenses, Arenas also owned his own personal shark tank that required $5,000 a month for food and cost $1,000 a month to clean. See what else some of the world’s best athletes spend their fortunes on.
Celebrity Net Worth estimates that $40 million of his fortune is still intact, which is kinder than Arenas’ own self-evaluation — but either way, he blew nine figures.
Money lost: At least $100 million
In 2015, the Providence Journal reported that a Starbucks in North Kingstown, R.I., had a new barista training to be a manager. His 6 foot 11 inch frame made him stand out — so did the fact that he was an Olympic gold medalist and a 13-year veteran of the NBA.
The No. 8 overall pick in 1993, Vin Baker earned more than $100 million during his All-Star career. By 2004, however, his double life as an alcoholic began to surface. Two years later, his NBA career was over. Reckless spending, bad investments and dealings with unreliable financial managers led him to become the most famous barista in Rhode Island.
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Money lost: $110 million
Antoine Walker’s successful 14-year career began in 1996 when he was drafted by the Celtics with the No. 6 overall pick. He was named to three All-Star teams, won a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006 and earned more than $110 million over the course of it all.
However, in 2010, just two years after he retired, Walker owed $12.7 million but had only $4.3 million left. He declared bankruptcy thanks to — like so many of his colleagues — a lavish lifestyle complete with high-end jewelry, cars and homes, and as many as 30 hangers-on whose lives he at least partially financed.
There was also a conviction for writing $800,000 in bad checks to a casino to cover gambling losses.
Money lost: $200 million
If NBA riches-to-rags cautionary tales had a poster child, it would be Allen Iverson — the same man Forbes called “the most gifted and fearless guard to ever play pro basketball.”
Arrests and other off-court trouble marred Iverson’s reputation from the beginning of his pro career, and the 76ers star fell victim to the same traps that ruined so many of his contemporaries: high-priced but depreciating assets like jewelry and cars, hard-to-sell mansions and legions of friends and family members with their hands out.
In the end, Iverson wasted a $200 million fortune.