A TMZ report last week revealed that former NFL star Chris McAlister has joined the bread line of pro athletes gone broke. McAlister, a three-time Pro Bowl choice with the Baltimore Ravens, is living with his parents, he told a family court judge, because he can't support himself after just one year out of the league. The hard-hitting, hard-partying cornerback sprinted through a reported $45 million in salary plus $17.5 million in bonuses. He signed a $55 million contract in 2004. Now he's looking for a way out of paying $11,000 a month in child support.
His story is just the latest chapter in the long book of financial free-falls of hotshot jocks, who seem to be in a league of their own when it comes to squandering large fortunes.
"The whole idea of being invincible and 'it's never going to end' kind of makes you have a much higher propensity to take risk," former NFL player Eugene Profit told The Price of Fame. "No one's going to tell you no because they want to stay in your entourage or circle."
Profit, a Yale grad from South Central Los Angeles, is an exception among grim statistics: His firm, Profit Investment Management, handles $2 billion in assets. By contrast, 78% of NFL players go bankrupt or nearly broke just two years into retirement, according to Sports Illustrated. Among NBA veterans, 60% fall into the same predicament after five years.
In honor of McAlister, we offer you The Price of Fame's list of the top 10 athletes who went from boom to bust.
10. Lawrence Taylor, football player
The Giants' Hall of Fame linebacker, perhaps the greatest defensive player ever and the highest-paid in his era, could not tackle cocaine addiction for a long time. He went bankrupt despite raking in $50 million.
9. Antoine Walker, basketball player
In a league of the passionately profligate, former Boston Celtic Antoine Walker stands out. He made $110 million and it's all gone. He owed $4 million to creditors at last report, and pleaded guilty this summer to writing bad checks amounting to $750,000 to casinos. He got probation. Before his NBA career ended in 2008, Walker supported at least 70 family members and hangers-on, his mother told the Boston Globe. Banks foreclosed on 14 residential homes he owned. That real estate bubble looks like a really tiny basketball now.
8. Lenny Dykstra, baseball player
Given that the former Mets and Phillies star once published a magazine, The Players Club, on how to live large as a professional athlete, he could have followed its advice. Now, his former lawyer is calling Dykstra indigent. It takes some doing to owe $30 million to creditors. Investments in car washes, real estate and a stock trading website all struck out. A $18.5 million house he bought from NHL great Wayne Gretzky was foreclosed on. He was recently jailed on grand theft auto charges and faced a possible 80 years in prison for allegedly embezzling from a bankrupt estate. He was also arrested in August for supposedly exposing himself to women he invited for job interviews he arranged on Craigslist.
7. Sheryl Swoopes, basketball player
Thanks to Nike, WNBA pioneer Sheryl Swoopes pulled down $50 million during her Hall of Fame career. Since then, she must be feeling like the woman who lived in a shoe, blaming her bankruptcy ($750,000 in debts) on vulture agents and lawyers.
6. Latrell Sprewell, basketball player
Perhaps best known for choking his coach in 1997, the four-time All-Star later gagged on a life-changing financial choice. He turned down a three-year, $21 million contract in 2005, saying he had a family to feed. What do those kids eat, gold nuggets? He was making $14.6 million a year at the time for a total of $96 million earned. But he never played again after that season and paid dearly for it. The former Knick saw his two homes foreclosed on, got sued for $200 million by an ex-girlfriend for child support, and had his 70-foot yacht repossessed. He still owed $1.3 million on it.
5. Evander Holyfield, boxer
Despite $250 million in career earnings, the four-time heavyweight champ saw his home foreclosed on and got sued for falling behind in child support payments. Perhaps his powerful right hand got tired from writing the checks -- he reportedly has 11 children.
4. John Daly golfer
He drove long, drank hard and liked to putter around the casinos. The 1991 PGA and 1995 British Open champion wrote in his autobiography how he once lost $1.65 million in five hours at the slots, which explains how he could blow an estimated $50 million to $60 million on gambling.
3. Michael Vick, football player
The scariest roller coaster couldn't compare to the financial ups and downs of Michael Vick. After his imprisonment for running a dog-fighting operation in 2007, he lost his $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons, as well as nearly $8 million a year from Nike and Coca-Cola ad gigs. He still owes $19 million from bankruptcy proceedings, ESPN reported. But he's back in the league as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, and making the kind of crazy money -- on a just-signed $100 million, six-year contract -- that could let him cover his debts fairly quickly.
2. Mark Brunell, football player
Despite collecting more than $50 million in his career, the quarterback claimed nearly $25 million in debts when he filed for Chapter 11 in 2010. He reportedly got sacked by bad real estate investments in Florida and Michigan. As of this writing, Brunell was still on the roster of the New York Jets as a backup to Mark Sanchez.
1. Mike Tyson, boxer
The former heavyweight champ earned an estimated $400 million and wound up owning only the tattoo on his face. He filed for bankruptcy in 2003. Two divorce settlements, the second of which involved ceding the deeds to two estates, supplied the knockout blow. But there were plenty of self-inflicted financial punches in between. Tyson spent millions on jewelry, clothing and other properties, and fought a cocaine habit. Let's not forget, he virtually stopped making money for three years in his prime, when he served time for rape. And did he really need that $2 million bathtub? That's called getting soaked.
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