As it stands in 2022, NBA players are making more money than they ever have. Evidence of that is the mega deals stars like Bradley Beal, and Nikola Jokic signed this offseason worth over $500 million between the two of them. It wasn’t always like that. Players in the 50s and 60s had to get second jobs or retire early because basketball didn’t pay enough. Players in the 70s, 80s, and 90s made a little more money, but it is nothing compared to the contracts being handed out in 2022. For example, Michael Jordan made an estimated $94 million in his playing career. A player like Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins will make that in the 3rd year of his current contract. See the issue?
That is just one of the many reasons that so many former NBA players go bankrupt. In a 2009 report published by Sports Illustrated, it was estimated that 60% of NBA players will go broke within 5 years of retiring. That is a staggering percentage of former players. Bad contracts, off-the-court issues, or just bad financial decisions lie at the root of those numbers. This doesn’t make any of the players on our list today less valuable as basketball players, and their place in NBA history is already cemented. It’s just they got a little too careless with their earnings.
Here are 20 NBA players that have gone bankrupt:
20. Ray Williams
Career Earnings: $2,500,000
Ray Williams spent 9 years in the NBA with 6 different franchises. He peaked as a 20.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 6.0 APG with both the Knicks and Nets in the early 1980s. Although he was never an All-Star, Williams was still a walking bucket at moments in his career. Almost immediately after his retirement in 1987, things fell apart for the former guard.
Shortly after retirement, Williams fell on hard times and applied for his NBA pension. He was awarded a pension of $200,0000, but it wouldn’t last long. Williams would lose the money in a real estate scam and again be down on his luck financially. It wasn’t long before Williams was taking up residence in a car parked in front of a friend's house in the Boston area. After The Boston Globe did a story on him in 2011, former Celtics teammates reached out to Williams to lend him a helping hand. Williams would get a job as a recreation specialist in Mount Vernon, New York. Sadly, Ray Williams passed away in 2013 as a result of colon cancer. He was 58.
19. Sidney Moncrief
Career Earnings: $7,200,000
Now it is estimated that Moncrief earned more than 7.2 million dollars in his 11-year NBA career, there just isn’t any record of it. Moncrief was a 5-time NBA All-Star, most notably with the Milwaukee Bucks. He won the inaugural Defensive Player Of The Year award and followed it up by winning it again the following season. He is the only guard in NBA history to win the award twice. He was one of the best two-way guards in the league during the 1980s, but what happened to all of that money?
After retirement, Moncrief opened a car dealership in his home state of Arkansas as well as took a job with the Dallas Mavericks as an assistant. Although there are no specifics as to what happened, Moncrief filed for bankruptcy in 2005. His list of creditors includes numerous car dealerships, the Mavs, a bank, and even a local newspaper. It is said that Moncrief’s money woes did not last long, as he later became an analyst for Fox Sports and a coach of the Fort Worth Flyers in the NBA G-League.
18. Rick Mahorn
Career Earnings: $8,517,000
It almost makes your stomach turn when you realize that Rick Mahorn made less in18 seasons than some players today in his same role make in one season. Was Mahorn an All-Star? No. Was he a vital piece to a championship run with the Detroit Pistons? Absolutely. Mahorn never really stuffed the stat sheet, but he was going to be your enforcer. He was going to give you a hard-fought 10 points and 8 or 9 rebounds every time he stepped on the floor. Unfortunately for Mahorn, he played in a time just before the salary cap went crazy.
It took Mahorn 10 years to face any financial troubles, but when he did, it hit hard. Despite being a WNBA coach with a decent salary and having received his NBA pension, Mahorn filed for bankruptcy in 2009. This came as a result of defaulting on his mortgage, which in turn caused him to owe the IRS over $200,000. Just as Mahorn found himself in financial ruin, he worked himself out of it even quicker. He has since taken jobs as both a coach in rapper Ice Cube’s Big3 league and as a broadcaster with his former team, the Detroit Pistons.
17. Erick Strickland
Career Earnings: $13,089,850
Erick Strickland played 9 seasons in the NBA with six different franchises. He peaked in the 1999-00 season with the Dallas Mavericks when he played 68 games and averaged 12.8 PPG and 4.8 RPG. When it was all said and done, Strickland was a 7.5 PPG and 3.0 RPG type of player who was out of the NBA by the time he was 32 years old. He still got good money from his playing days, earning over 13 million dollars. It would mostly be gone soon at the hands of someone he thought he could trust.
At an unknown point in time, Strickland was approached by a friend with what was seen as a can’t miss real estate deal. Even Strickland’s father looked into it for his son, and it seemed like a legit and profitable opportunity. Strickland invested an unknown amount of money, seeking to flip the land for a high profit. It turns out that the person he thought was his friend had pulled one over on the Strickland’s as the property they had invested in wasn’t worth even half of their expected return. Strickland and that friend had a falling out after it was learned that the person in question had earned a large cut of the deal. It is unknown Strickland’s financial status today, but this failed deal certainly didn’t help things at all.
16. Randy Brown
Career Earnings: $15,162,000
Randy Brown is an NBA journeyman most known for his days from 1995 to 2000 with the Chicago Bulls. Brown came off the bench for the majority of his career, never topping more than 9.0 PPG or 3.5 RPG. His game was centered around defense and putting pressure on opposing guards when the Bulls’ stars needed a breather. Nevertheless, the man won 3 rings with the Bulls during their 2nd 90s three-peat. He also spent time with the Celtics, Kings, and Suns, earning just over 15 million dollars in his career.
Randy Brown fell into the statistic of the 60% of former players who go broke within 5 years perfectly. After his career ended, he decided to become a businessman and throw himself into a bunch of restaurants and real estate deals. As another player who was led astray by people he called friends, Brown found himself in need of help and desperately. The Chicago Bulls came to the rescue, bringing Brown on as their director of player development. He was eventually promoted to be their Assistant General Manager.
15. Dan Issel
Career Earnings: $18,000,000
Dan Issel is one of the greatest players in Denver Nuggets history. He is a Basketball Hall Of Famer, a 7-time NBA All-Star, and a 6-time All-ABA player. He averaged 20.7 PPG in his 10 seasons with the Nuggets, with whom he spent his entire career. He would even go on to become the team’s head coach and an executive. Outside of basketball, Issel had other endeavors that would end up being his kryptonite.
His work as a business owner didn’t pan out, and by 2009 he filed for bankruptcy. It was reported that Issel owed more than 4.5 million dollars to 34 different creditors, something that embarrassed him greatly. To get himself back into good standing, Issel had to auction off some of his prized possessions. These items were connected to precious memories Issel had from both the NBA and ABA. Issel has since gotten himself out of that deficit and back into good standing with the IRS.
14. Mookie Blaylock
Career Earnings: $31,790,000
Before a man named Trae Young took the NBA by storm, Mookie Blaylock could be considered the greatest point guard in Atlanta Hawks history. Blaylock won back-to-back steals titles in 1997 and 1998 and earned the only All-Star berth of his career in 1994. In 7 seasons with the Hawks, Blaylock averaged 14.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 7.3 APG, and 2.6 SPG. He is still the franchise’s all-time leader in steals. Mookie was a sensation to watch play basketball, but everyone has demons.
For much of the latter part of his career and life after retirement, Blaylock struggled with substance abuse and alcohol issues. Due to the disease he was suffering from, most of his money was either consumed or spent trying to defend himself in court. In 2013, Blaylock caused a fatal car crash that took the life of a woman and nearly his own. The accident caused Blaylock to lose all that he had left financially and a sentence to jail for 15 years originally. The sentence was reduced to three years in jail and eight years probation which he still serves today.
13. Eric Williams
Career Earnings: $39,835,520
Eric Williams enjoyed a lucrative 12-year NBA career compared to his counterparts before him on this list. The first few seasons of his career looked pretty promising. He averaged 15.0 PPG and 4.6 RPG in his 2nd season with the Boston Celtics. He got injured in his 3rd season and never appeared to be the same player again. You might remember him from his one season alongside some rookie named LeBron James.
Just 10 years after his NBA career ended, however, Williams was homeless and falling behind on some serious bills. While homeless, Williams was dealt another blow when he was served with a citation claiming he was over $24,000 behind in child support payments. Since he has fallen on hard times, Williams has seemed to have bounced back somewhat and gotten himself out of debt.
12. Clifford Robinson
Career Earnings: $60,213,771
“Uncle Cliffy” as Clifford Robinson was known, played a pivotal role in the early 1990s Portland Trail Blazers. The 6’10” forward was an efficient scorer for the Blazers, stringing together 4 straight seasons of 19.0 PPG and 5.5 RPG from 1993 through 1996. He earned the only All-Star honors of his career in 1994. He was also named the NBA’s Sixth Man Of The Year in 1993. In 8 seasons with Portland, he averaged over 16.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG. He wouldn’t retire from the game until he was 40 years old.
Just two seasons after his retirement and earning over $60 million in his career, Robinson declared bankruptcy. The claim stated that his assets were worth $7.1 million while his bills had piled up to $12.4. If you do the math, you’d know he was over 5 million dollars in debt. Fortunately for Robinson, he was able to dig himself out of the hole after finding success with a lucrative marijuana business in Portland, where he spent his best playing days. Unfortunately, Robinson passed away in 2020 after a battle with Lymphoma.
11. Joe Smith
Career Earnings: $61,220,796
Joe Smith played 16 years in the NBA for 12 different franchises. Not something you’d exactly expect from the first overall pick in any NBA draft. It is his draft spot and longevity that are easily why his career earnings top the $60 million mark. He was another player who had a promising start to his career, averaging 17.0 PPG over his first 2 and a half seasons with the Golden State Warriors. He also enjoyed a few more productive seasons in Minnesota and Philadelphia.
Believe it or not, it is also his travel from home to home that ultimately did him in financially. According to Smith, he bought a new home in every state in which he played, and by 2018 he was flat-out broke. Fortunately for Smith, MLB’s Alex Rodriguez was there for him. Rodriguez set Smith up with financial stability through a reality TV show he was doing at the time. A-Rod set Smith up with a financial advisor who helped Smith get back on his feet and overcome his debts.
10. Christian Laettner
Career Earnings: $61,485,000
Aside from being the most hated man to ever come out of Duke University, Christian Laettner enjoyed a pretty solid career in the NBA. His first 3 and a half seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves were very productive as he averaged 17.2 PPG and 8.1 RPG. He then went on to have productive stints in Detroit and Atlanta. With the Hawks, he was an All-Star 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.
Like most on this list, Laettner fell into tough financial times following retirement. After a bevy of bad business deals and real estate blunders, Laettner was headed for bankruptcy. Not only did he owe $14 million to creditors in North Carolina, but he ended up scamming one of his former teammates as well. Scottie Pippen, who was Laettner's teammate on the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, joined him in a deal that was supposed to lead to the purchase of the Memphis Grizzlies. The group never bought the team, and Pippen's investment was never returned. Pippen ended up suing Laettner and was rewarded $2.5 million.
9. Darius Miles
Career Earnings: $61,999,973
Darius Miles was lucky that he got into the league at the time he did in 2001 straight out of high school. As exciting of a player he was and all the hype around him coming into the league, he didn’t quite live up to it. He enjoyed some great times with the Clippers for his first couple of seasons and even in Cleveland and Portland after that. By the time he was 24 years old, Miles was struck by the injury bug. Miles would suffer a knee injury in the 2006 season which would end up costing him 2 additional seasons of his career. He attempted a comeback in 2009 when he finally recovered, but by that time, he was a complete shell of his former athletic self. Despite injuries and low production, Miles was still able to rake in over $61 million in his career that ended when he was just 27 years old.
Miles was young when he entered the league, and his financial decisions reflected it. Not long ago, in 2016, Darius Miles filed for bankruptcy. He reportedly listed $460,385 in assets but over $1 million in liabilities. He lost substantial amounts of money in real estate investments and other business deals that crippled the former star into the red. Miles seems to be doing much better for himself these days. He hosts one of the most popular basketball podcasts, “Knuckleheads'' with former teammate Quentin Richardson among other ventures that seem to have gotten him back into good standing financially.
8. Kenny Anderson
Career Earnings: $63,425,200
Kenny Anderson played 14 years in the NBA, most notably with the New Jersey Nets of the early 1990s. The first 4 and a half seasons of his career were spent in New Jersey, and it would be with the Nets that he made the only All-Star appearance of his career. In his time with the Nets, Anderson averaged 15.3 PPG and 7.8 APG. He was an 18.0 PPG scorer and 9.0 APG player for them in 1994. Anderson netted over $60 million in his playing career, but it is rumored to have been nearly gone by the time he retired in 2006.
Anderson’s money woes can be attributed to any one of many factors. He battled some personal mental and emotional issues, including several DUI arrests that certainly dented his wallet. It is also reported that he fathered 7 children from 5 different women. Child support payments and divorce settlements crippled him financially, but he seemed to turn his life around about 2017. He released a documentary detailing his struggles and fight back called “Mr. Chibbs”. It showed a valiant turnaround from a life that could have gone an entirely different direction.
7. Glen Rice
Career Earnings: $68,323,900
Glen Rice’s game on the court has somehow become forgotten over the years. He was a 3-time All-Star who was a proficient scorer in his day, especially with the Heat and Hornets. The first 6 years of his career were spent in South Beach, where he developed into one of the best young scorers in the game. By the time he was through in Charlotte, he was one of the best players in the league. In Charlotte, he became a 3-time All-Star who averaged 23.5 PPG in 3 seasons there. He peaked in 1997 when his scoring reached a 26.8 PPG average.
Rice’s financial issues were brought on by bad business decisions and monthly child support payments. Rice petitioned a court to lower his monthly support payments so that he could be able to afford to live on his own. He had been only able to profit at a small margin due to memorabilia and autograph signings to make ends meet, but it wasn’t getting the job done. The judge lowered his monthly payments, and it seems that things have turned around for Rice in 2022.
6. Larry Johnson
Career Earnings: $83,132,856
“Grandmama” Larry Johnson could very well be one of the best power forwards that had his prime cut short. After becoming a star at UNLV, Johnson was drafted to the Charlotte Hornets where he would become a fan favorite instantly. He became a two-time All-Star in Charlotte, and in his 5 seasons there, he averaged 19.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG. He then went on to the New York Knicks, where he was also a fan favorite and nailed one of the most iconic 4-point plays in NBA history. Johnson totaled over $80 million in his NBA career, which was cut short by back injuries, and Johnson left the game at just 31 years old.
A young retirement was not too friendly to Johnson. His back issues required expensive surgeries but were the only way for Johnson to function. By 2015, Johnson had filed for bankruptcy after it was confirmed he owed an overwhelming amount of child support. He even owed one woman over $890,000 as a result of back child support. The only way he knew how to reconcile his debt was to offer the woman his home in California. The woman took the deal, and it seems as if Johnson’s debt was paid. His financial status is unknown in 2022.
5. Derrick Coleman
Career Earnings: $91,366,800
As far as a start to a career could go, Derrick Coleman had one of the most promising in recent memory. He was the No.1 overall pick to the New Jersey Nets, where he spent the first 5 years of his career. He won the 1991 NBA Rookie Of The Year Award when he averaged 18.4 PPG and 10.3 RPG. He followed that up with back-to-back All-NBA selections in 1993 and 1994, earning his 1st and only All-Star nod in ‘94. He played 10 more seasons for 3 different teams and totaled over $90 million in earnings. It wouldn’t take long for it to be gone.
Derrick Coleman would retire in 2005, and by 2010, he was filing for bankruptcy. It is unknown how Coleman actually lost his earnings, but it has always been attributed to an overly lavish lifestyle and partying. It isn’t all bad for Coleman, though. He decided to go back to school and earn a degree. He is now an ambassador for Syracuse University and helps at-risk youth by exposing them to the game of basketball at an early age. On top of that, he is also an activist for clean water in his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
4. Shawn Kemp
Career Earnings: $91,572,903
Anyone who watched NBA basketball in the 1990s knows exactly who Shawn Kemp is. Kemp, along with his teammate Gary Payton, helped bring basketball in Seattle to prominence in the 1990s. It seemed like every night you were tuned into a SuperSonics game, Kemp was going to throw down a highlight dunk of some sort. He was fast, strong, and incredibly explosive. He made 6 straight All-Star games from 1993 to 1998 and helped Seattle nearly win a championship in 1996. He was rewarded with career earnings of over $91 million in 14 years of service.
As of 2022, it is reported that Shawn Kemp has nearly gone below $1 million in net worth. There are a few reasons why Kemp has struggled so much since walking away from the game. He had a myriad of off-the-court legal fees that were enough to dent anybody with money’s wallet. It is also reported that he makes monthly child support payments to 6 different families. It is unknown if his financial struggles continue, but a man like Shawn Kemp is bound to come back.
3. Latrell Sprewell
Career Earnings: $97,060,000
“I got a family to feed”. These are the words that will hound Latrell Sprewell for the rest of his life after turning down a $21 million contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004. He would never sign another contract after the 2005 season. Before that, Sprewell was one hell of a basketball player with the Warriors and Knicks. The 4-time NBA All-Star was a nightly 20-point threat who was as exciting as anyone to watch play. The issues with his attitude were well documented, especially the infamous choking of his then Head Coach, P.J. Carlesimo. That didn’t stop him from making nearly $100 million in his career.
Just 3 years after retirement, it seemed as though Sprewell had lost everything. In 2008, federal marshals seized and repossessed a yacht that Sprewell owned after he failed to keep paying for it. Just months after that, Sprewell’s home, worth $1.5 million, went into foreclosure after he defaulted on his mortgage. Sprewell’s case is a perfect example of what happens when you let your pride get in the way of your decisions in life.
2. Vin Baker
Career Earnings: $97,390,894
Vin Baker was one of the most exciting young forwards of the 1990s. He spent the first few seasons of his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he developed into a perennial All-Star. Baker was a serious offensive threat in his heyday, good to give you 21.0 PPG and at least 10.0 RPG. Unfortunately for Baker, none of his Milwaukee teams were ever good enough to make the playoffs. Baker only tasted playoff action once he was dealt to Seattle in 1997. He was an All-Star 3 times in Milwaukee and in his first season with the SuperSonics. His promising play led to just over $97 million in career earnings.
Baker’s struggles are well documented. He struggled mightily during and after his career with alcoholism and addiction, which led to a severe financial crisis. After finally putting in the work to get clean, Baker started to completely turn his life around. He turned to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who owned the Sonic during Baker’s playing days. Baker began to manage a Starbucks in his home state of Connecticut. He currently serves as an assistant coach for the team that drafted him, the Milwaukee Bucks.
1. Antoine Walker
Career Earnings: $108,142,015
Antoine Walker never met a shot he didn’t like to take. That is just the type of player he was. At an undersized 6’8” for a power forward, Walker was able to find success at the NBA level despite his height. The thing is, even if he wasn’t feeling it on any given night, he was going to keep shooting until the clock struck zero. He was a 3- All-Star with the Boston Celtics, who at his peak averaged 23.4 PPG and 8.9 RPG. He was also a big contributor to the 2006 Miami Heat team that won an NBA title. His career paid off to the tune of over $105 million.
Perhaps the quickest fall from millionaire to broke belongs to Antoine Walker. Just one year after winning the championship with Miami, and while he was still attempting to keep his career going with Minnesota, Walker filed for bankruptcy. Under Walker’s admission, his financial troubles are due largely in part to his awful gambling habits and legal fees after a few run-ins with the law. Walker has seemed to dig himself out of the hole, and you can catch him as a regular on ESPN’s morning and midday NBA programming.