When you go to the basketball-reference page of Scottie Pippen and see that his career salary earnings total up at a shade over $109 million (not including endorsements) it gives you a moment of pause. Pippen did, after all, file for bankruptcy this past year. Crazier still is the fact that Pippen's case is far from isolated.
In 2008, the NBA Players’ Association claimed that 60 percent of pro basketball players go broke within five years of retirement. That's an astounding figure. In fact, it's enough to make me want to gouge my own eyes out with a wooden stick trying to wrap my head around the idea that players who make tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of a career could possibly run out money. But it happens time and again and the phenomenon has an all too familiar pattern.
Bad Habits Start Early
Picture a nineteen year old kid signing a contract that gives him more money than he's ever seen (or hoped to see) in his entire life. Naturally he's going to want to bring his friends along for the ride of his life, especially if they come (not always the case) from a poverty stricken upbringing. Frankly, I would do the exact same thing if not just out of a sense of loyalty then because it would be a hell of a lot more fun with my buddies around to share my good fortune. But there are dangers involved in mixing money and friendship.
Back in 1998, just two years into the league, Allen Iverson faced questions surrounding a pair of his friends who (while driving Iverson's $138,000 Mercedes) were arrested on drug charges. Though he faced no legal action from the incident, it certainly put Iverson's judgement into question and drew the ire from, among others, one Charles Barkely. "He shouldn't hang out with people who are going to put you in situations,"" Barkely said. "I don't like the posse mentality. All it is is a bunch of friends who don't want to work and want to mooch off you."
And while this quote is some thirteen years old, it seems as relevant now as it was then. You never know how people you think are close to you will violate your trust or take advantage of your generosity. Money has a way of changing people.
Also, as an aside, Allen Iverson spent the past year playing on a professional team in Turkey because no NBA team would have him. He was reportedly broke at the time he signed the deal. Just saying.
Financial Lesson: Friends and Money Shouldn't Mix
Mo' Money, Mo' Problems
Within a few years most pros who stick in the league usually earn a second contract, this one for more money than their rookie scale and if they're really good it can garner tens of millions more dollars to their name. For most NBA players getting a long term contract in their prime should set them for life, right? If not, then what gives?
The fact is that as contracts grow in size so do egos and desires and vices. By this time the player and his 'posse' as Barkley called it are no doubt accustomed to a certain lifestyle. With the more money on hand comes an even higher demand for fancier cars and bigger houses and even more expensive habits.
Consider Antoine Walkers outrageous gambling exploits (over 800k owed to three Vegas Casinos), Eddy Cury's $6000 a month personal chef (the kid can eat, can't he), Rumeal Robinson's $20,000 strip club binges (I hope he was getting more than a lap dance) or Pippen's 4 million dollar private jet (later repossessed, just as his mansion was). There are extravagances and then there are absurdities. Even multi-millionaires have limits to what they can spend money on. NBA players just seem to like to push those boundaries.
Financial Lesson: Live Within Your Means
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