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Which former NBA players are now broke?

Join us for a look at former NBA players who lost their way post career. From legal troubles to substance abuse, these guys didn’t do well.

Who are the former NBA players that went broke after their careers?
Rocky WidnerNBAE via Getty Images

As hard as it may be to believe, there are quite a few former NBA players out there who went broke after their careers were over. We take a look at some of the bigger names who didn’t make the best choices when their playing days came to end.

Salaries in the NBA have changed

In today’s NBA, it’s safe to say that players make a whole lot of money. Consider for a moment the deals signed by Bradley Beal and Nikola Jokic which total more than $500 million between the two of them. When you compare that to the players of the 50s and 60s, some of whom had to get second jobs to supplement, it’s really quite black and white. True, as we progressed over the next three decades, we can see a clear increase in salaries, but let’s be honest the large majority of them are nothing when compared to the kinds of salaries we see today.

Michael Jordan for example, made an estimated $94 million across his entire playing career. Golden State Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins will earn that in the third year of his current deal. You read that right. This is all to say that while it still took some notoriously bad decisions on their parts, the players that were about to take a look at, didn’t throw away hundreds of millions of dollars, only tens. With no further delays, let’s take a look at former NBA players who went broke:

Randy Brown - $15,162,000 in career earnings

On this list, Randy Brown is perhaps the only entry where we will find a happy ending. The definition of a NBA journeyman, Brown will best be remembered for his time with the Chicago Bulls from 1995 to 2000. More often than not used off the bench, Brown averaged 9.0 PPG or 3.5 RPG and was largely employed for his defensive pressure game. He was part of the Bulls team that got its second three-peat and would later end up with the Celtics, Kings, and Suns, earning just over 15 million dollars in his career.

Unfortunately for Brown, he joined the some 60% of former players who go broke within 5 years of retirement. How did he do it? Following his playing career, Brown went into the business of restaurants and real estate. On the back of bad advice from those around him, Brown invested heavily in a number of less than successful projects until finally he found himself in desperate need of help. Luckily for him, his old team, the Chicago Bulls answered his call. The franchise offered Brown a job as their director of player development, which he would hold until he was promoted to Assistant General Manager. A happy ending indeed.

Mookie Blaylock - $31,790,000 in career earnings

While Trae Young may be turning heads today, it wasn’t long ago that the Atlanta Hawks had arguably the best point guard in the league and certainly in the franchise’s history. Indeed, Mookie Blaylock was the recipient of two consecutive steals titles in 1997 and 1998. In his 7 seasons with the Hawks, Blaylock averaged 14.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 7.3 APG, and 2.6 SPG. To this day he remains the franchise’s all-time leader in steals.

Yet, as is always the case, that was only half of the story. Blaylock struggled with substance abuse and alcoholism during the last years of his career and most definitely after it came to an end. Due to the disease, Blaylock began to face a number of legal issues such that a large portion of his earnings were consumed in court. From there things only got worse, as in 2013 Blaylock was responsible for a fatal car crash that claimed the life of a woman. As a result of the accident Mookie was financially ruined and more over was sentenced to 15 years in prison. His term would later be reduced to three years and eight years of probation, which he continues to serve today.

Christian Laettner - $61,485,000 in career earnings

The Duke product once shocked the world, when he was famously included in the 1992 USA Olympic ‘Dream Team’ alongside the likes of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, before even making his NBA debut. With regards to his actual career in the league, Christian Laettner posted solid numbers with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he averaged 17.2 PPG and 8.1 RPG. From there he would move to Detroit and then on to Atlanta. With the Hawks, he would go on to be selected to the All-Star Team in 1997.for the only time in his career in 1997 when he put up 18.1 PPG and 8.8 RPG. Laettner’s play earned him a bit over $60 million in his career.

As you’ve probably noticed by now from those above, bad decisions were made post career. From bad business deals to poor real estate investments, Laettner was on a direct path to bankruptcy. Not only did he owe $14 million to creditors in North Carolina, but he actually managed to swindle former ‘Dream Team’ teammate Scottie Pippen out of a sizeable sum of money. According to reports at the time, Pippen joined Laettner in a venture that was to see them purchasing the Memphis Grizzlies. Ultimately, the purchase never occurred and Pippen’s investment was not returned. The Chicago Bulls star would go on to sue Laettner and was eventually rewarded $2.5 million.

Shawn Kemp - $91,572,903 in career earnings

If you watched the NBA during the 90s, then there is no possible way that you didn’t know the name of Shawn Kemp. Indeed, it was on the back of Kemp’s efforts and of course his wise cracking teammate Gary Payton, that the Seattle SuperSonics came to the fore during the decade. A high-flying and extravagant dunker of the ball, Kemp was literally a walking highlight reel. Fast, strong and unbelievably explosive, the Sonics No. 40 was named to six consecutive All-Star games between 1993 and 1998 and even helped Seattle to reach the NBA Finals in 1996.

While there are no definitive reports as to exactly what, where, when and how, what we can understand is that Kemp made a whole host of bad choices after his career came to an end. Yet, perhaps the most financially damaging of all to Kemp, is that he reportedly has to pay monthly child support to 6 different families.

Antoine Walker - $108,142,015 in career earnings

The kind of player that you either loved or hated, Antoine Walker was definitely talented and more over gritty. At 6′8,” he was considered small for a power forward, however, that didn’t stop him from finding success in the NBA. Named to the All-Star Team on three occasions the former Boston Celtics player averaged 23.4 PPG and 8.9 RPG. After moving to the Miami Heat, he actually won a title in 2006.

What’s striking about Walker’s descent isn’t just how far he fell, but how quickly. Indeed, just one year after winning the championship with Miami, and while he was still fighting to keep his career alive with the Minnesota Timberwolves who he had joined, Walker filed for bankruptcy. Ultimately, Walker would admit that it was largely due to his out-of-control gambling habit as well as legal fees which came as a result of a number of misdemeanors. Interestingly, Walker was able to turn things around for which he must be credited. Today you can find him on ESPN where he works as an analyst.

Honorable mention goes to Latrell Sprewell

One of the most exciting players at the time, many of us will remember Latrell Sprewell’s infamous phrase, “I got a family to feed”. Uttered when he rejected a $21 million contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004, Sprewell would unfortunately not get another chance as he wouldn’t sign another contract after the following season. A 4-time NBA All-Star and shoe in for 20-points per game, Sprewell was as good as he was unpredictable when it came to his attitude. Many NBA fans will remember of course when he choked his then head coach P.J. Carlesimo. Across his career Sprewell earned approximately $97,060,000.

With that said, many weren’t surprised when just 3 years after retirement, Sprewell was in trouble. It was in 2008, when federal marshals seized and repossessed a yacht that Sprewell owned after he failed to continue making payments. That unfotunate event was soon followed by the foreclosure of his $1.5 million home. To this day, Sprewell’s story remains a cautionary tale about the correlation between pride and ruin.


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