This is a blog post by Drea Knufken.
Athletes may boast eye-popping sports abilities, but when it comes to money, their inner klutzes come out. 78% of former NFL players are broke or financially stressed after retirement, and 60% of former NBA players go broke five years after retiring, according to Sports Illustrated. Broke athletes are practically an epidemic. Read about the 25 athletes who went broke below, and you’ll understand why.
(Note: We estimated most athletes’ earnings. Some numbers may be low.)
25. Raghib “Rocket” Ismael
Notre Dame/Dallas Cowboys star; received the largest 3-year deal in football history
Estimated lifetime earnings: $20 Million
No jail time, drug charges or bankruptcy here, just bad business moves. Financial vultures bled Ismael’s riches by selling him their “fool-proof” investments. After bypassing the NFL as the presumptive #1 pick, Ismael went to the Canadian Football League and signed the largest deal in their history.
He played two years in Canada and 10 in the NFL, earning an estimated $18 million to $20 million in salary alone. He then started to invest in a series of ventures that went bust, including a Rock n’ Roll Café, COZ Records, a movie, cosmetics, nationwide phone-card dispensers, and caligraphy proverbs kiosks.
Today, Ismael does a sports talk show for the Dallas Cowboys—and looks very closely at any money he makes.
24. Scott Eyre
World Series champion, pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies
Estimated lifetime earnings: $10 Million
Eyre, like many of us, was taken for a fool during last year’s stock market/investment madness. His money grew tied up in the $8 billion fraud allegedly perpetrated by Texas financier Robert Allen Stanford. Eyre told the New York Post that 99% of his fortune is frozen and possibly gone. After admitting that he was broke, the Phillies agreed to advance Eyre a portion of his $2 million salary.
23. Evander Holyfield
4-time Heavyweight Champion of the World
Estimated lifetime earnings: $250 million
He had a deal with Diet Coke, a video game, the “Real deal” record label, the “Real Deal” grill, and appeared in numerous TV appearances and 3 films. Then, there was the dancing thing. One wonders how Holyfied had time to lose money. The answer: Children. Holyfield fathered 11 of them.
“I’m not broke; I’m just not liquid,” 45-year-old Holyfield claimed when he narrowly avoided charges that he was around $9,000 behind in court-ordered child support payments. The banks foreclosed on his $10 million dollar home. Even a landscaping firm says the former champ owes them $500k for yard work. Ever since Tyson bit his ear off, it seems everyone wants a piece of the Champ.
22. Jack Clark
MLB player since 1975
Estimated lifetime earnings: $20 million
When Jack Clark declared bankruptcy on listed debts of $11.4 million and assets of $4.8 million, his lawyer made a statement. “He had some expensive hobbies, and I think they got ahead of him.”
Ya think? The man owned 18 automobiles, including a 1990 Ferrari that cost $717k alone. His three customized, tricked out 1992 Mercedes Benzes cost around $125k each. All in all, he still owes money of 17 of his cars, as well as the failed drag racing course he meant to race them on. Add to that half a mil in back taxes, and you have some expensive hobbies, indeed.
21. Johnny Unitas
Hall of Fame quarterback, 3-time MVP, Superbowl champion, 10-time Pro Bowl selection
Estimated lifetime earnings: $4 million
Widely considered one the best pro football QBs of all time, Johnny Unitas set several records that may never be beaten on the football field, like 47 games with a touchdown pass in a row.
He starred in professional football before salaries were measured in millions. His yearly contracts ranged from $7,000, his first in 1956 with the Colts, to $250,000 plus a $175,000 bonus in his last one with the San Diego Chargers in 1973.
After his playing days, he made some money as a TV commentator for CBS. He also invested in tanked business ventures, including a chain of bowling establishments, a prime-rib restaurant, an air-freight company, and Florida real estate investment. He and his wife, Sandra Unitas, filed for personal bankruptcy protection in 1991 after investing in a failed Reisterstown circuit-board manufacturer. He died 11 years later with a lawsuit from his estate hanging over all of his businesses.
20. Deuce McAllister
New Orleans Saint’s all-time rusher, 2-time Pro Bowl star
Estimated lifetime earnings: $70 Million
John Elway got out of the car dealership business early, but Deuce McAllister Nissan, based in Jackson, Miss., didn’t fare as well. The business recently went bankrupt, with McAllister owing Nissan more than $6.6 million plus almost $300,000 in interest on his car dealership. Reports are that he will seek bankruptcy protection. If you want that new Deuce Pathfinder, you better pick it up in a hurry.
19. Bjorn Borg
11 Grand Slam titles; former #1 men’s tennis player in the world
Estimated earnings: $4 million + $4 million in endorsements per year
Borg’s famous Swede cool never made it off the court. After retiring from tennis, Bork overdosed on drugs. Some people speculate that it was a suicide attempt, though Borg denies it. His wife left him after that. Borg then courted a string of women, one of whom police busted on possession of cocaine. He tried launching a clothing line, but failed miserably. Years later, Borg has rebounded after starting an underwear line and a new dating site.
18. Rollie Fingers
Hall of Fame pitcher, 3-time World Series champ; last played for the Milwaukee Brewers
Estimated lifetime earnings: $8 Million
Fingers retired in 1985 and made it four years before investments in pistachio farms, Arabian horses and wind turbines took him down. He filed for bankruptcy in 1992. Creditors claimed he owed more than $4 million; he listed his assets at less than $50,000. He resolved his predicament by selling baseball cards and going back to work. In 2007, a dispute over back taxes flared up, but Fingers was able to prove he did indeed pay, and was cleared of all wrongdoing.
17. Sheryl Swoopes
3-time gold medal Olympian, 3-time MVP for the WNBA, first pro women’s basketball player
Estimated lifetime earnings: $50 Million
Swoopes, the “Michael Jordan of the WNBA,” scored her own Nike deal for the Jordan-inspired “Air Swoopes” brand. Swoopes, a marketing machine, enjoyed a stint as the face of the WNBA, but her fortunes didn’t last. She filed for bankruptcy in 2004, citing mismanagement by her agents and layers. She owed nearly $750,000.
16. Scott Harrison
First Scottish boxer to gain the World Boxing Federation featherweight title
Estimated lifetime earnings: $5 million
The pride of Scotland had problems with drinking, drugs and consequently the law. A world champion in 2003, Harrison’s life later spun out of control. In 2006, he pulled out of a fight to check into rehab.
It didn’t work. The same year, police in Spain arrested him on charges of auto theft and assault. Officials stripped him of his title and his license to box for failing to show up for a fight and weigh in. Early in 2007, police arrested Harrison for valium possession, police assault, resisting arrest, and refusing to leave a pub. A few months later he was arrested again for starting a fight in a brothel. By July 2007, the ever-classy Harrison declared bankruptcy after losing his last fight…over unpaid taxes.
15. Leon Spinks
Beat Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title; Olympic gold medalist
Estimated lifetime earnings: $4.5 million over two fights
Before he lost his second fight with Ali, Spinks’ personal life slid downhill. Police arrested him four times for everything from driving the wrong way to cocaine possession. The WBC stripped him of the belt before the fight, but it went on for the WBA belt. Spinks’ lawyers and managers allegedly spent or took all of his money. Thieves mugged him on the street. In 1990, he found his son shot dead inside in his girlfriend’s car.
Spinks eventually worked for Mike Ditka as a Restaurant greeter. The company fired him. Most recently, he is stable and working at a gym again, only this time it is the YMCA, and he is the janitor.
14. Dorothy Hamill
Gold medalist skater; America’s first darling Olympian
Estimated earnings: $1-2 million/year in endorsements
After receiving a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics, Dorothy Hamill became America’s first Olympic darling. After that, her luck turned. A competing skater’s coach tried to run her over. She made a bad purchase in the dying Ice Capades franchise. She survived breast cancer, two divorces, and a gig as a Vioxx spokesperson. A final, failed investment in an Arizona ice skating rink pulled her into bankruptcy.
13. Lawrence Taylor
New York Giants MVP, sack leader, Hall of Famer, 2-time Superbowl champ
Estimated lifetime earnings: $50 million
After retiring from his superstar NFL career, Lawrence Taylor enjoyed his celebrity to the fullest. Known for cavorting with women, openly using cocaine and drinking late into the night, the former defensive end spiraled downwards after he left the league. Police jailed him three times for possession. The IRS caught him for filing a false tax return. Rumors claimed he was involved in a drug and gun ring. He finally declared bankruptcy in 1998. One year later, the Pro Football Hall of Fame rewarded him for cleaning up his act by inducting him.
12. Darren McCarty
Stanley Cup winner, 11-year Detroit Red Wings player
Estimated lifetime earnings: $10 million
McCarty declared bankruptcy after listing over $6 million in debts. He blamed his business partner for looting their company. One court filing states that MCCarty had a 20% stake in a company with one real asset: a truck stop. His partner took out a $3 million dollar loan on that one asset, then forged McCarty’s signature for a $650,000 salary pull. Ouch.
11. Travis Henry
Starting running back for the Buffalo Bills, Pro Bowl selection
Estimated lifetime earnings: $20 million
Henry has 9 kids by 9 different mommas. He was just indicted on charges of cocaine trafficking. He was also just jailed after trying and failing to temporarily reduce one of his nine child-support payments, stating he could no longer afford to pay $3,000/month. He also fell $16,600 behind in payments for his child in Frostproof, Fla. His estimated yearly payments for the children are roughly $170,000.
To top off his pain, he just blew a $25 million contract with Broncos because of the narcotics trafficking thing and failed drug tests.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Drea Knufken is a freelance writer, editor, ghostwriter and content strategist. Her work has appeared in national publications including WIRED, Computerworld, National Geographic, Minyanville, Backpacker Magazine and others. For more information, please visit www.DreaKnufken.com. You can also find Drea via her blog, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.