Former NBA player, Antoine Walker, 38, earned over $110 million throughout his NBA career, more than four times the average player in the league. All that money, though, didn’t stop this All-Star from going broke.
Walker’s financial problems began his first year in the league as a 19-year-old rookie with the Boston Celtics in 1996. Although he had a financial advisor help him establish a plan for his long-term finances, Walker had other ideas about what he wanted to do with his newfound wealth.
“Through my young arrogance, being ignorant to a degree and being stubborn and wanting to do my own thing with my money, I went against a lot of his wishes,” Walker told Yahoo Finance.
Dunking into debt
Growing up as the oldest of six, Walker helped his mother raise his siblings as she struggled to provide for her family. Once Walker made it to the league, he was set on providing for his family and it didn’t take long before he blew through his rookie salary.
“I never really thought about the severity that I put myself through after just the first year of the league, but I didn’t really worry about it because the money was constantly coming in,” said Walker. “
He quickly acquired a taste for the finer things and upgraded his entire family to live in multi-million dollar homes that he built from the ground up. His driveways were filled with four to five luxury cars -- from Bentleys and BMWs, to his prized $350,000 Maybach. And as one of the most fashionable ballers, Walker never wore the same designer suit twice.
His generosity extended beyond his family to his many friends and acquaintances. From lavish all-expenses-paid trips to luxury gifts for his friends, Walker made sure everyone in his circle enjoyed the lifestyle he led. With his fellow NBA players, Walker gambled extensively – losing $646,900 in just two years.
Even as his spending spiraled out of control, Walker had a plan to put his income to work and bought more than 140 properties along the South Side of Chicago. Whether it was land to build on or commercial and income properties, Walker had a full-range of real estate investments meant to maintain the lifestyle he had built for his family after retiring from the league.
With the housing bubble and bust, Walker found himself defaulting on loans where he was the personal guarantor, losing value on land, and failed to get a handle on the legal issues that followed.
Looking back, Walker says he regrets making significant investing decisions before retiring from the league. With his attention focused on his NBA career -- in full swing at the time -- he didn't have time to keep a close eye on his investment properties, and like many others, was caught off-guard by real estate crash.
“I think there were different ways of how I could have saved the bulk of my wealth. I could have been on top of it. I missed a lot of court dates, a lot of default judgments, there’s a lot of properties I could have kept that I thought were good investments,” Walker said.
Hitting rock bottom in 2010, Walker declared bankruptcy, citing $12.74 million in liabilities with $4.28 million in assets. The entire bankruptcy process was drawn out over two years. Stripped of his credit cards and his bank accounts frozen, it was heartbreaking for Walker to liquidate many of his priceless possessions, including his NBA championship ring his team, Miami Heat, won in 2006.
Bouncing back from bankruptcy
Discharged from his debt in 2012, Walker has since downsized every aspect of his life. He now lives in the one home that he still owns with five of his family members in downtown Chicago. And none of the cars sitting in his driveway belong to Walker himself. If he’s in need of a ride, he goes with family or uses Uber.
Now a basketball analyst for 120 Sports, a digital sports network, and regular sports signings and speaking engagements, Walker is working on building up his life again and hopes to make a difference by helping others avoid the same financial pitfalls.
Focusing on the importance of financial literacy, Walker is scheduled to release a documentary and book, Gone In An Instant, early next year in hopes that people will learn from his mistakes.
When asked what his #1 piece of advice would be to young NBA players today, Walked said, “Get the word ‘No’ in your vocabulary. You’re going to have to say no to a lot of people that are very important to you. Stick to your financial plan and don’t invest until you’re done with your career when you’re able to be hands-on.”
For himself, Walker aspires to build up his savings and one day retire. “I’m looking more now for a quality of life. Being able to take care of my kids and being able to take care of my grandkids one day,” said Walker.