Top NBA Players Who Went Broke

The NBA is an extremely lucrative league. Every player, from superstars at the top all the way to bench players at the bottom, is well compensated. However, that money doesn’t last forever. There are quite a few different high-profile athletes who couldn’t keep up their lavish lifestyles.

The following article covers several different NBA players who went broke after their time in the league, as well as what moves they made that led them down that path. Having a lot of money is good, but if someone isn’t careful they can lose it all as well.

An Honest Wage

Before getting into specific cases, it’s first important to look at what players in the NBA make. The average salary is roughly $8 million. That’s a ton of cash, but it shows that most athletes make a few hundred thousand when the max contract outliers are taken into account.

In fact, the NBA minimum salary sits at right above $900 thousand. There are a few ways teams can get around that figure, mainly through aspects like two-way or 10-day contracts, but for the most part players on the lower end of the league are earning somewhere around $1 million.

That’s a lot for one check, and it can go a long way. However, that faucet doesn’t run forever. The average NBA career is 4.5 years long. As such, most bench or minimum contract players are only going to see one or two paychecks during their time in the league.

Looking at those numbers, it’s not too surprising that so many bench players run out of money. What’s much more surprising is when bigger names do.

The Face of Bankruptcy

Though most NBA players tend to live comfortable lives, a few notable athletes have lost their fortunes for a variety of different reasons over the years. Some of those are personal, and some are due to spending or making poor investments.

One such example was long time player Latrell Sprewell. The ex-athlete played for three teams (Warriors, Knicks, and Timberwolves) during his career and earned more than $100 million. That’s more than enough money to last anyone for multiple lifetimes, but it wasn’t enough.

The reason for that is he turned down a large contract and then was pushed out of the league due to his violent temper and proclivity for conflict. He tried to make a comeback, but couldn’t get any organizations to put up with his off-the-court issues.

Rather than continuing to grow his fortune, Sprewell quickly found himself without a job. That sudden shift, combined with a series of poor investments and large amounts of debt, quickly ate into his personal funds. It wasn’t long before he blew just about everything he owned.

Rough Investments

Sprewell is perhaps one of the most famous cases of an NBA athlete losing their money, but he’s just one example. There are many players who succumbed to similar issues and lost everything they have in a similar way.

Another big name who lost his money is Christian Laettner. Famous for his play at Duke, the all-star had a good start in the league. Though he never reached the hall of fame heights, the strong power forward earned more than $60 million throughout his time on the hardwood.

Even so, once he retired he made a series of bad business deals and real estate blunders that tanked his personal finances. He did eventually manage to build back up over the years, but he never managed to rebuild his fortune in the same way.

Another player who lost a lot of money through poor investments is Darius Miles. The guard earned a total of $61 million during his time in the NBA. Though he had a ton of talent, his career was cut short due to a series of untimely injuries. At just 27, his time in the NBA ended.

Despite putting away a lot of cash, he tried to get into real estate but ultimately failed. His money dwindled away and in less than a decade he had to file for bankruptcy. He hasn’t quite bounced back yet. 

Keeping Up With the Family

While poor investments or bad business decisions sink a lot of NBA players, having several kids is another common reason so many go broke. Keeping one family fed and happy is tough enough, but balancing multiple is quite a significant financial investment.

For example, ex-Charlotte player Glen Rice lost almost all of his $70 million fortune due to monthly child support payments. While he got the amount lowered enough to put him back on his feet in 2022, the damage was already done.

Larry Johnson and Shawn Kemp are two other examples of athletes who gave a lot to their children. Johnson was a multi-time all star who retired early due to injuries. Not only did he have to pay for expensive medical treatments, but he owed an overwhelming amount of child support.

That ended up tying up a lot of his cash and forced him into debt. He eventually resolved his issues, but it took quite a bit of time for him to climb out of the hole.

Kemp, on the other hand, lost most of his $91 million due to having too many kids. Not only did he also have large child support payments, but he had to pay out to six different families. That wore him down over time but is doing his best to rebound.

Final Words

There’s no doubt that most people who make it to the league tend to come away with a good amount of money. Not everyone is going to sign a max contract, but they will get several large paychecks during their time in the NBA. Unfortunately, that’s not how everyone’s story ends.

As the above paragraphs show, getting a lot of money doesn’t necessarily mean someone will stay rich. Getting a big contract at a young age is a lot of responsibility. While some players have no problem with that burden, there are more than a few who can’t.

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