In this world, nobody is guaranteed long-term financial security. Not even NBA players, whose annual salaries start at $467,588 and top off somewhere around the $23 million range. Antoine Walker was on the higher side of the scale, earning over $100 million over his 12-year NBA career. Barely a year after he last laced up his sneakers, Walker is reportedly broke.
Former NBA players squandering millions upon millions of dollars has been a trend this past year. Guys like ‘Toine, Jason Caffey, David Vaughn and Latrell Sprewell have all fallen on hard times since those big checks stopped coming in.
It’s amazing how some poor investments, frivolous spending habits and showering friends and family with gifts and money can erase eight, sometimes nine-digit earnings in just a matter of a few years.
While rich people going broke is hardly a new thing, the combination of what happened to Walker and Sprewell along with these tough economic times are starting to help drive the point home to players.
Scared the NBA may go on strike in the next few years, rookie sensation, Brandon Jennings, reportedly lives in a modest condo in Milwaukee and drives a Ford Edge.
Other players like the Suns’ Jared Dudley put themselves on strict budgets.
“I live a lifestyle that is accustomed to my means,” says Dudley, 24. “That might be tough for most people, but for me it’s not tough. If you make $1.2 million, you really don’t make 1.2. After taxes, maybe $500,000-600,000.”
Dudley says he doesn’t buy much jewelry, nor does he pull a Vincent Chase and pick up the tab for his all his boys when he goes on trips. He doesn’t like to buy cars – he says it’s a bad investment because they depreciate in value. If you wonder where he gets his smarts, well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“I lucked out with my family, my mom, she was a lawyer,” says Dudley, who makes $1.3 million this season.
David Lee of the Knicks is smart enough to realize that an NBA player’s career span in short.
“I probably got one nice car and that’s about it,” says Lee who just signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Knicks. “I just try to save as much as I can because I’d love to play this game forever, but unfortunately we only got so much time. So I just try to be as conservative as I can.”
Lee says the key is being wise, not overly frugal.
“I’ve gotten a little more lavish, but back when I was a rookie, I’d literally just spend my per diem and barely spend one percent of my paycheck and saving everything I could,” says Lee. “Being the 30th pick, I didn’t know how long I’d have in the league and I was kind of on the edge there barely playing. I still try to live by that most of the time. You try not to make yourself too bored, you got to spoil yourself sometimes.”
A lot of athletes find themselves in financial trouble when people close to them start asking for handouts or money to startup one of their great business ideas.
“When you first get money, it’s hard to say no,” says Knicks forward Al Harrington. “After awhile you realize the bigger picture and see that you have a family and you have kids that you have to take care of. Now it’s easy, it’s just hell no!” (laughs)
Asked whether money has ever strained his relationship with any family and friends, Harrington didn’t even hesitate.
“All the time. But if it strained it, it wasn’t real love anyway.”
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