These Once Millionaire Athletes Are Now Broke and Pinching Pennies
With fame comes money, with money comes excess, and perhaps no greater testament to this would be the renowned players of the sports world. While some learn from others, spend wisely, and make profitable investments that will keep them rich into retirement, others go wild with their newfound cash and wind up paying the price, quite literally. These once-millionaire athletes ended up watching their big bucks go down the drain — and here’s why.
1. Lenny Dykstra
At one point, Lenny Dykstra was on top of the world. Back in the 1980s, this baseball player was a millionaire and even led the New York Mets to a 1986 World Series championship victory. However, a few bad decisions left the former star with empty pockets and a tarnished record.
After retirement, Dykstra quickly ran through his savings and was even detained for three years on a grand theft auto charge. In 2009, the former World Series champ filed for bankruptcy. At the time, he was $31 million dollars in debt and only had about $50,000 to his name. He had but one option to get that money: selling his possessions.
2. Dan Marino
When it comes to football legends, no list would be complete without Dan Marino’s inclusion. The man’s legacy as a quarterback for the Miami Dolphins is packed to the brim with memorable highlights. At the height of his career, Marino was practically rolling in awards, honors, and millions upon millions of dollars.
After retirement, Dan tried to keep himself active by being a sportscaster and analyst. Sadly, at heart he was no businessman — and he’d pay for it. At the 2012 Coachella festival, the masses saw an impressive holographic 2Pac. The company behind this was Digital Domain. Impressed by what he saw, Marino bought millions of dollars worth of company shares. Not long after, they tanked, and Marino lost everything.
3. Mike Tyson
When it comes to the world of sports and millionaire athletes, Mike Tyson’s name always manages to jut out above the rest. Between 1985 and 1989, the man was undefeated in his realm, losing just one match against Buster Douglas before going on another streak that would last until 1996. For a good block of time, Tyson was undoubtedly the best boxer on the planet.
Between jail time, substance abuse issues, and insane spending habits, Tyson officially hit rock bottom in 2003. He even publicly announced that he had no money in his bank account. However, he was able to pick himself up and even make a comeback to the ring in an effort to redeem his financial situation. Today, Tyson fans will be glad to know that Iron Mike is doing better than ever.
4. Vince Young
For many years, Vince Young was the star quarterback and the face of the Tennessee Titans. One wouldn’t even begin to doubt that the man was rolling in millions. But his financial breakthrough wouldn’t stay that way. Vince lost all of his money before he could even think about retiring.
At the seven-year mark of his career, Vince saw himself filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. His financial advisor Ronnie Peoples reported that despite his client signing a $26 million contract, he was spending his money faster than he was making it. The young star threw his money around to the point of having nothing left.
5. Diego Maradona
In terms of soccer, there is one name that even the most casual fan is bound to know, and that’s Diego Maradona. He holds the title of being one of the greatest, if not the absolute greatest, soccer players of all time. Maradona played for his home country Argentina in four World Cups and even led his team to a cup victory in 1986 with a near-miraculous goal that is still talked about to this very day.
Being the greatest soccer player in the world doesn’t come without amassing a fortune. However, Maradona was not a fan of paying taxes. While he was living the high life for a while, the Italian Tax Authority soon became hot on his trail and charged him $54 million in back taxes. By the time that was paid off, his wallet was decidedly thin.
6. Dennis Rodman
Back in the 1990s, Dennis Rodman’s storied career landed him a legendary place on what many deem the greatest NBA team of all time, the Chicago Bulls. They won six championships in the decade and put themselves in the history books. During that time, the ever-colorful Rodman was regarded as one of the better players on the team.
The thing that sent Rodman to the poor house was child support. The millionaire went some time without paying up his share, and he soon owed $800,000 in back child support and $50,000 in back spousal support. He told the courts that he was ill and broke and couldn’t afford the payments. Seeing as he once made $9 million a season, this was a darn shame.
7. Sheryl Swoopes
When people think about big money and basketball, they automatically set their sights on the NBA. However, the WNBA is making its share of millionaires too, and Sheryl Swoopes is a testament to that. She racked up a whopping $50 million during her days on the court.
Sadly, this money would swirl down the drain rather quickly for her. Swoopes claims this downward slide was all due to bad investments and lazy representation that tanked her fortune. After getting in debt with the IRS, the basketball star ended up having to sell a number of her trophies and Olympic medals in order to get back on her feet.
8. O. J. Simpson
At one time, O. J. Simpson had it all. Not only was “The Juice” one of the most beloved football players throughout the 1970s, but he had successfully made the leap from the field and onto the silver screen. He’s probably most famous for playing Detective Nordberg in the Naked Gun series.
By the time the 1990s rolled around, O. J. had a net worth of $11 million. However, this would all vanish in an avalanche of legal fees, as Simpson found himself in the smack center of one of the biggest criminal cases of the 20th century. Despite beating the case and getting his freedom, he walked away practically broke and would eventually get into legal trouble once again.
9. Leon Spinks
When Leon Spinks stepped onto the boxing scene in the 1970s, he quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. The man is one of the few people who can say he beat Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time. At the height of his fame, he could boast $4.1 million to his name.
Sadly, by the time he hit retirement, the man would be knocked off the pyramid of millionaire athletes and be left quite penniless. This was mainly brought about by his addiction to gambling and illegal substances. Additionally, Spinks had more than a few run-ins with the law. The once-world champion eventually saw himself working as a janitor at a YMCA. Luckily, he’d eventually clean himself up and become a spokesperson for boxers who suffered head trauma.
10. Dorothy Hamill
No list of millionaire athletes gone broke would be complete without Dorothy Hamill. While ice skating has been a popular sport for decades, it officially took the world by storm in the 1970s with Dorothy Hamill leading the charge. She skated into the 1976 Winter Olympics, executed what has been called one of the greatest skating routines of all time, and brought home the gold.
With her skating career going full force into the ’80s, Dorothy was bombarded with endorsements and millions of dollars. However, in 1991, she shocked the world by filing for bankruptcy. She wasn’t tossing her millions around carelessly; rather, she found herself locked in a nasty custody battle. To make matters worse, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had bills stacking up to high heaven.
11. Lawrence Taylor
Few football careers can match up to Lawrence Taylor’s. From 1981 to 1993, he was the face of the New York Giants, leading the team to two Super Bowl victories. On top of that, he even acted in a slew of movies and headlined Wrestlemania 11. The man was on top of the world.
While he may have appeared cool and collected in the limelight, the man suffered greatly from substance addiction. He also blew his money on a slew of unnecessary purchases, such as a motorcycle collection. Things came to a head when he tried cheating on his taxes. The IRS didn’t take too kindly to that. It all got a whole lot worse when his ex took him to court for some child support back payments.
12. Darren McCarty
48-year-old Darren McCarty kicked off an amazing hockey career with the Detroit Red Wings in 1992, and quickly became regarded as one of the best players in the league. McCarty amassed millions upon millions of dollars, but he simultaneously made what many describe as rather careless financial decisions.
While playing hockey, he had no issue living life lavishly. But when he retired in 2009, things quickly changed for McCarty. He could no longer sustain his standard of living, and began living on credit. He swiftly filed for bankruptcy, with the claim that he had not a penny to his name and owed $6 million in debt to creditors.
13. John Arne Riise
Usually when an athlete goes broke, it happens a few years after retirement. John Arne Riise didn’t walk down that familiar path. The Norwegian footballer breaks ground as being the youngest athlete to ever go completely broke. Much of this had to do with poor management of his money.
Riise points to his manager as the man to blame. According to the footballer, his manager took his money and made some awful investments. He’s apparently £100,000 in debt, which is incredible when one considered that this man earns £50,000 a week. Given the man’s young age, it isn’t far fetched to think that he can turn things around.
14. Johnny Unitas
It goes without saying that Johnny Unitas is one of the greatest football players of all time. He is affectionately known as “The Golden Arm” and led the Baltimore Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 1971 and three NFL MVP titles in 1959, 1964, and 1967.
Despite having one of the most celebrated careers in the league, Unitas unfortunately ended up flat broke when all was said and done. In 1991, Unitas saw himself filing for bankruptcy and protection against creditors. Despite working with banks and creditors to cancel out his $3.2 million debt, his life would end up sliding into financial ruin.
15. Rollie Fingers
Sliding into third and giving Luigi a run for his money, it’s professional baseball player Rollie Fingers. He is most famous for playing with the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres in the 1970s and 1980s, becoming one of the most celebrated millionaire athletes of his era. While he had a good career, things immediately went took a turn for the player after retiring.
Rollie Fingers got involved in a slew of business scams and burned up $1.1 million. He also made a hefty amount of unnecessary purchases. While playing professionally, he bought an entire line of Arabian horses. Sadly, as cash continuously slipped through his fingers, he was forced to sell them off to try and cover his debt.
16. Tiki Barber
When it comes to the Detroit Lions, Tiki Barber is one of the team’s all-time shining stars. In terms of running backs, it doesn’t get much better than this legend. Given his amazing reputation, it should surprise no one that he was rolling in the millions — for a time.
At first, his trajectory seemed well enough. He landed a sports analyst job with NBC and was still bringing home some good bucks. Then he opted to divorce his wife and marry an intern, the catalyst for a downward slide. He was fired for marrying her due to a morality clause. He then had to pay up to his ex-wife, which led to him eventually filing for bankruptcy.
17. Andre Rison
In the heart of the 1990s, NFL fans were introduced to a sensation by the name of Andre Rison. This talented player was signed to a $17 million contract with the Cleveland Browns. Endorsements soon flooded in and the guy was rolling in even more money.
He followed in line with an array of other NFL players. Being merely a kid when he started, he spent his cash on whatever he pleased. Sadly, when it came time for his retirement in 2007, the NFL star didn’t have much money to his name, and ended up having to file for bankruptcy.
18. Terrell Owens
In a sport that can absolutely ravage the human body, Terrell Owens managed to give the NFL 16 seasons between 1996 and 2012. He took home three Super Bowl victories and played in some of the league’s most beloved teams.
His trajectory of bouncing from team to team offered very revealing insight as to his personality, and it’s a trait that followed him into retirement. Owens could never stick to a single investment he made, and most of them were pretty awful. Despite the huge amount of success he had in the NFL, just a few years off the field would see the player facing a $400,000 debt. Today, he is completely broke.
19. Michael Vick
When Michael Vick first stepped onto the gridiron, he garnered legions of excited and devoted football fans from across the nation. However, his reputation soon plummeted when it was discovered that he was running an illegal dog fighting ring in his very own home.
The appalling revelation saw Vick spending some time behind bars. Understandably, it also resulted in his $130 million contract getting thrown out the window. By the time the ordeal blew over, he was left completely broke. Though Vick eventually did make an NFL comeback, only a few owners would actually still sign him due to his highly problematic past.
20. Evander Holyfield
Evander Holyfield is one of the best boxers to ever grace a ring. Most know him for his wars with Mike Tyson and, like it or not, the whole ear incident. While he was no doubt raking in millions back in the 1990s, his finances quickly took a turn for the worse, as child support issues began to pop up.
At the same time, the boxing great began to slip into debt. He ended up having to sell his mansion for $7.5 million, which hardly covered what he owed to the bank. Holyfield also owed the IRS twice that in back taxes. Tragically, his financial situation was made public, and fans watched as he began selling off his personal items for money. He went from one of the world’s richest millionaire athletes to flat broke.
21. Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp’s 1995 to 2007 career was stacked full of intense highlights, among them winning a Super Bowl. Yet even as he was able for a short while to enjoy the financial fruits of his onfield labors, sadly, his career’s highlights were soon completely overshadowed by his very public financial woes.
Once retired, Sapp found himself filing for bankruptcy, with an account balance of only $826.04. That’s more than a little shocking when one considers he earned $82.2 million throughout his career. What sank him into financial ruin was his expensive taste. He eventually had to put everything he owned up for auction, such as massive shoe collections, lion-skin rugs, and an array of luxury cars.
22. Mark Brunell
Mark Brunell’s 18-year career saw him earning a whopping $50 million. Across five teams and a 2010 Super Bowl victory, most would assume that financially speaking, this man would be set for life. However, that wouldn’t be the case. A year before his retirement, it was discovered that Mark Brunell was completely broke.
The famed football player was about $25 million in debt and had only $5 million in his bank account. His situation worsened during the 2008 recession. He had made a slew of real estate investments, which crashed horrifically at the time. In an effort to redeem himself, he bought nine Whataburger franchises — and five of them quickly went out of business. Talk about having some bad luck.
23. Raghib Ismail
While Raghib Ismail didn’t manage to pull any Super Bowl victories during his 10-year career, he did play with some of the best teams, which featured both the Raiders and Cowboys. During his time on the gridiron, he managed to coax a sum of $20 million into his bank account.
Once he retired in 2001, Ismail decided that he’d next venture into the world of business. This was a horrible idea for the football player, as most of his investments would end up going belly up. Whether it be his phone card dispensers or cosmetics, each would fold. He’d end up joining so many others on this list and filing for bankruptcy.
24. Luther Elliss
In 1995, NFL fans were introduced to a promising young talent by the name of Luther Elliss. He debuted for the Detroit Lions and would instantly make a name for himself. After eight years with the Lions, he’d play for the Broncos in 2004 before he officially retired from the game.
He’d quickly go from one of the world’s millionaire athletes to completely broke. Elliss didn’t throw his money around or waste it on lavish items. However, his mistake was similar to Raghib Ismail’s, making some dire investments and owing thousands in legal fees and private school bills for his kids.
25. Archie Griffin
Back in the 1970s, everyone, especially in Ohio State, was talking about the young football sensation Archie Griffin. He was the best college player of the time and was expected to make waves in the NFL. He quickly got drafted onto the Cincinnati Bengals and was instantly propelled from college kid to one of the world’s most anticipated millionaire athletes.
Sadly, while Archie was a gifted player, he didn’t really live up to all the hype. In seven seasons, Archie was only able to score seven touchdowns. As a side gig, he delved into the shoe business. Unfortunately, it was a big failure and the once-promising rookie had to file for bankruptcy in 1982.