Imagine losing $200,000 in 10 seconds. Now imagine losing $108,000,000 in the blink of an eye. Former NBA star Antoine Walker managed to do both.
Everybody’s heard the old stat regarding lottery winners: 70 percent of people who hit it big playing the lotto end up broke within three to five years. The people who win simply don’t know how to handle the immense amount of wealth that has fallen in their lap, and end up going crazy with it.
It doesn’t help that family and friends come out of the woodwork looking for some loot, but it’s nearly impossible to expect someone who’s never had large sums of money to know how to wield this financial power.
The same phenomena happens with professional athletes. While their money doesn’t come to them by a stroke of luck, as people who get paid to perform a service earn their living, nearly all professional athletes lack experience dealing with millions of dollars prior to landing million dollar contracts.
Inevitably, this ends up with a portion of them blowing through their money faster than their future multi-million dollar contracts can replace.
This is actually what happened to former NBA star Antoine Walker, who more than earned his first major paycheck.
He was raised in poverty, the eldest of six siblings. With his mother already doing all she could to raise her six children, Walker was forced to help raise his siblings at a young age. Even with all this added work, he managed to secure a full scholarship to the University of Kentucky by way of his excellent basketball abilities.
As a standout forward, Walker was drafted as the sixth overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. Expectations on a then young Walker were skyhigh.
Immediately, Antoine Walker impressed fans, media and NBA colleagues. He averaged 17.5 points in his rookie season, and he would average over 20 for six seasons in his career. He was an All-Star three times, and EVEN won a championship in Miami with Shaq and Wade toward the end of his career.
So, as you can imagine, Walke got paid. Like, paid well. His days of poverty had been in the rearview mirror for a while by the time he was set to leave the NBA. For clarity: By the time he hung up his jersey, Walker had made just over 108 million dollars.
But that money wasn’t going to support Walker on the lavish lifestyle he had grown used to; Or offset the iffy investments he made over time.
While he was in the league, Antoine Walker had acquired a taste for flashy cars and clothes. He made a few astounding admissions on his spending habits to Sports Illustrated, explaining why he went broke so fast.
Walker claims he had not just one or two luxury cars in his playing days, but SEVEN. This includes what he claimed was the worst purchase of all of his questionable purchases, a Maybach Mercedes Benz. At the time, the going price for one of these babies was 450,000. That’s nearly half a million right there, on one car. Walker laments this purchase and sees it now as losing 200,000 dollars almost instantaneously, because the cars value plummeted as soon as he drove it off the lot.
But he didn’t think that way when he was raking in the big bucks. If one of Walker’s teammates rolled up to practice in something that looked nice? Walker would go out and buy the same model, because why not? The man had over a 100 mil in the bank, and was ready to add to his already extensive car collection.
And it wasn’t just the cars. Antoine Walker had to go out in the nicest clothes, and laden in jewelry. Claiming he “never wore the same designer suit twice.” Money was flying out the window left and right.
And if the money wasn’t going towards buying gaudy items for himself, it was going towards his friends, family, and agents. Walker estimates that by buying his inner circle mansions, giving them money for personal ventures, and employing an agent to keep the contracts coming, he spent just over 36 million dollars on things that came with zero return.
Just keeping his entourage around cost Walker 8.5 million dollars. Between partying, going out, and dressing his buddies almost as well as he dressed himself, IT’S no surprise 108 million disappeared in a blink.
Another factor that drained Walker’s wallet was his gambling habits.
Antoine Walker was a frequent customer of big name Vegas casinos after his career ended, places like The Red Rock resort, Caesar’s Palace, and Planet Hollywood. By Walker’s estimate, he lost about four million dollars in Vegas. It got so bad that all three of the previously mentioned establishments reported Walker for writing checks that his bank account could no longer cash. A sure sign of not awesome money management.
The real knockout punch came from the Great Recession, and he had nothing to do with a lavish lifestyle or other ‘athletes gone broke’ tropes. It was a presumed smart investment gone horribly awry.
Walker had invested over 20 million dollars in real estate. When the market crashed, Walker was forced to pay every penny to the bank. This ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back, and Walker filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
Less than two years after playing his final NBA game, Walker had blown through an entire career’s worth of cash. He was forced to repay all of his gambling debts, and even had to sell his championship ring to help pay back debt.
Given that Walker initially rose from the ashes like a Great Phoenix, highlighting his perseverance, it should come as no shock to learn this story has a happy ending.
Not that kind of happy ending, kids. Get your mind out of the sewer.
Walker has been debt free since 2012. He is now a walking, breathing example of what happens to star athletes who aren’t frugal enough with their earnings, and instead of hiding that fact, he has embraced it.
Antoine Walker has done plenty of talks on news shows and in front of NBA players to stress the importance of financial literacy. He has released a documentary called “Gone in an Instant” that details his slide in to bankruptcy.
While Walker is nowhere close to a millionaire now, he can still live comfortably with his family in Chicago. He currently works as a sports analyst for 120 Sports, and will surely be talking about his rags-to riches-to rags tale for years to come.
One thing is certain, though: Antoine Walker will not be the last athlete to blow through their cash, but at least he is an example that hitting rock bottom is not a death sentence for a once loaded pro. Hopefully other athletes learn from his mistakes.