As it stacks up against the other major sports, no professional athlete makes more than a professional basketball athlete. According to this article by USA Today, National Basketball Association players make an average of $5.15 million. While the average career length (4.8 years) is less than that of the next two in line (Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League), the average career earnings of an NBA player is nearly $25 million, $7 million more than second most highly paid athletic profession. If this is the case, why are NBA players so likely to be in debt after their careers are over? Let’s take a few snapshots of some of the most irresponsible NBA players and you can have an idea of what goes through the minds of some of these professional basketball players.
Scoring over 24,000 points and averaging over 26 points per game over his career, no one will ever question Allen Iverson’s ability on the basketball court. But, like many athletes it isn’t the on-the-court performance that gets them into trouble, it is off-the-court. Iverson’s infamous line of “We talkin’ about practice,” after missing practice in May 2002, is iconic to Iverson’s brainless actions when not in uniform. Making over $200 million over his 17 seasons, Iverson was banned from casinos across the United States, he pays over $125,000 in credit card payments per month, his large home in Atlanta was foreclosed on, and he pays about $10 grand going out to restaurants. Perhaps he should have practiced some basic personal finance strategies.
Another Bozo when it comes to PR moves, Sprewell is another NBA player in serious debt. Sprewell left the NBA after declining a 3 year, $21 million with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The reason he declined this contract? “I have a family to feed,” according to Sprewell. He probably could have used that money, considering he had two homes foreclosed on and had his large yacht repo-ed. And what’s more, that isn’t even the worst of it. His girlfriend sued him for $200 million for failed child support payments. He’s also the guy that choked his coach, PJ Carlesimo, during a practice session. Not exactly an idol for kids to follow.
Playing in the NBA up until the 2012-2013 NBA season, Eddie Curry has to be one of the youngest NBA players to go into debt. In 2008, when he was playing for the New York Knicks, some quick-loan company made off like bandits, duping Curry into signing off on a $580,000 loan at EIGHT-FIVE PERCENT INTEREST. Can you believe that? He’d also pay a heap of cash to friends and family per month totaling to over $15,000.
Professional athletes are paid the big bucks to put fans in the stands. The fact that many professional athletes go into debt within 5 years of their careers ending is not entirely their fault. These athletes were likely quite young when they came into the league (most of us weren’t financially savvy during our late teens or early 20s either) and many of them came from poor upbringings and had no idea what to do with all this newly acquired wealth. The reason it is so difficult to wrap my head around it is that I, like many of you, are very conscious of my budget and allocating monthly expenses. Imagine if these athletes had more than just an inkling of personal finance knowledge. 60% of NBA players go into debt within 5 years of retiring. They make their money, blow their money, and spend the rest of their lives piecing together fragments of a “normal” life. Getting out of debt is difficult in most cases, but these people are burdened with paying back hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of dollars. It’s a sad fact that professional athletes must be more conscious of.
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Frank McCourt graduated with a degree in economics. Since then, he has worked in a variety of financial settings. When not at work you can find him watching too much sci-fi television or talking too much about wine.
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