The list of athletes who lost huge sums of money after their playing days ended is long. Evander Holyfield may have been fearsome in the ring, but that didn’t stop him from nearly losing his house in 2008. Jose Canseco was a force to be reckoned with when he played major league baseball, but after his steroid use was made public the money dried up and he had to resort to reality TV gigs to keep the bills paid.
For many athletes who lose their former earning power, it’s not just the paychecks and the prestige that go away, it’s the stuff. The cars, the jewelry, and the admiration of the fans often disappear and, most painfully, sometimes the houses do, too.
Many athletes spent their signing bonuses on huge mansions with extravagant amenities. When they couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments they were faced with foreclosure, like so many others during the housing crisis.
Who are some of the major athletes who have faced foreclosure? Click ahead to find out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 22 September 2011
During Antoine Walker’s 15-year career in the National Basketball Association he’s played for five different teams and earned $110 million. However, in 2010 he filed for bankruptcy protection, citing liabilities that outweighed his assets by $9 million. At the root was a gambling problem he had nursed for some time; it was also behind his 2009 arrest for writing $800,000 in bad checks to three Las Vegas casinos.
Walker’s bankruptcy filing listed a 7,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home in Boca Raton, Fla., worth $2 million that was saddled with a $4 million mortgage. The home sat on the market for a long time without attracting a buyer. However, that changed when it went into foreclosure, at which time the price dropped to $1.8 million and it sold quickly.
Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J, was one of basketball’s first rock stars. During his 1970s heyday, the Basketball Hall of Fame inductee pioneered a style of play that featured lots of showboating, leaping, and above-the-rim slam-dunking. Today, this conduct is par for the course in any professional basketball game. But Erving did it first, and he remains a legend almost 25 years after his retirement.
Sadly, Erving was not immune to falling on hard times, and in December 2010 those hard times cost him his house. Erving had purchased the 6,500-square-foot, five-bedroom St. George, Utah, home in 2006 and built a basketball court on the property that was decorated with the colors and logo of the Philadelphia 76ers. He moved out in January 2010 and listed the home for $2 million, but never found anyone to buy it. Erving defaulted on the mortgage and the home, which he described as “substantially underwater,” went into foreclosure.
The perpetually tobacco-chewing Lenny “Nails” Dykstra had an illustrious major league baseball career. He was a member of the New York Mets when they emerged victorious from the 1986 World Series, but upon retirement he kept spending money like an active player. Ultimately, it ran out and he filed for bankruptcy. Documents showed he was indebted to both Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, to such a degree that he was able to claim a staggering $50 million in liabilities.
Dykstra, who was so broke he was forced to sell his World Series ring, put his luxurious Thousand Oaks, Calif., home on the market in 2008 for $25 million. It didn’t sell, and the house wound up on the foreclosure auction block. Dykstra ultimately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and in January 2011 the home sold to an unnamed buyer for an undisclosed amount.
Sergei Fedorov is a Russian ice hockey player with successful stints in four National Hockey League teams. He played with Anaheim’s Mighty Ducks, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Washington Capitals, but it was his time with the Detroit Red Wings that made him stand out.
In June 2010, the PrivateBank and Trust filed foreclosure notices against two separate properties he owned in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. One, a 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home with a Jacuzzi, a gym, and a sauna, went into foreclosure in 2011. Fedorov blames both foreclosures on his former financial adviser, whom he successfully sued for $60 million.
According to Steve Wyche of NFL.com, JaMarcus Russell was the biggest draft bust in National Football League history. Wyche is not alone in that opinion. The Huffington Post went there, too, and Bill Williamson of ESPN called him “extremely disappointing.” These summations would be bad enough on their own, but the galling fact is the Oakland Raiders had such unreasonably high expectations they gave him a $61 million contract with $32 million guaranteed.
Russell wasn’t able to hang onto the money after his 2010 release from the team, however, and one of the casualties of his insolvency was the $3 million mansion he had bought during the good times. In March 2011, foreclosure proceedings began on the six-bedroom Oakland home.
In 2008, ESPN ranked Allen Iverson the fifth-greatest shooting guard in National Basketball Association history. He currently holds the sixth regular-season career scoring average of all time, as well as a playoffs average that’s second only to the mighty Michael Jordan.
Iverson’s mansion in Cherry Hills, Colo., went into foreclosure in March 2011. Purchased for almost $4 million, the six-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot home has every amenity, including a wine cellar, seven fireplaces, and even a panic room. The home sold in April 2011 for $2.5 million, more than $1 million less than the original purchase price.
John Smoltz is a former pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. The 3,000-strikeout-club member is famous, in part, for his fastball, which was once clocked at 98 miles per hour. In his long career, he was the recipient of the Cy Young Award, and he currently serves as a sportscaster for Atlanta Braves games.
Amidst all of his success came the surprising revelation he owned property that was facing foreclosure. The Wyoming lot he bought in 2005 was part of the Snake River Sporting Club, a bankrupt organization that changed hands many times. Smoltz is still holding up well financially, leading some to speculate the foreclosure is not the result of hard times but the product of a strategic default designed to free him of the property.
Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones experienced a fall from grace that was as tragic as it was spectacular. The track and field star won three gold medals and two bronze medals during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia, but it was later revealed she had achieved these victories with the help of steroids. To make matters worse, she had lied about it under oath.
Ultimately, Jones had to return her medals to the Olympic committee, and she spent six months in jail for perjury. However, her problems didn’t go away when she got out of jail. She lost not just her earning power, but also $1 million in endorsements. Her $2.5 million North Carolina home went into foreclosure, and she was also forced to sell the house that she had bought for her mother.
No matter what else he accomplishes, few people who saw it will ever forget that 1997 day when basketball player Latrell Sprewell choked his coach, P.J. Carlesimo. He drew a 68-game suspension for it, as well as a reputation as a crazed, violent hothead in the process. Sprewell went on to a lucrative career in which he earned almost $100 million, but he blew when he refused a $30 million contract extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves on the grounds that it was not enough money to feed his family.
The gambit failed, and he was out of a job by 2005. This posed a problem, as the unemployed athlete had spent huge sums of money on luxurious items. Among his purchases were a yacht, which he named “Milwaukee’s Best,” and homes in Wisconsin and Westchester, N.Y. However, by 2007, the yacht was repossessed, and by 2009, both mansions had gone into foreclosure.
Basketball player Vin Baker was a hot prospect with a great future. He was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1993 NBA draft, making the All-Star Team four straight times. However, in 1998 he ballooned to an alarming 300 pounds, making his status as an active player impossible. Although he eventually lost some of the weight, he could no longer keep his secret—he was an alcoholic, which eventually ended his career.
In 2008, CNBC reported Baker faced foreclosure on his Durham, Conn., home. It was actually his second foreclosure that year, as his restaurant, Vinnie’s Saybrook Fish House, had closed that February. The seven-bedroom house, which occupied 12 acres and featured its own basketball court, was bought by U.S. Bank for a sum that was never disclosed.