In 2016, former NBA player Darius Miles filed for bankruptcy — following a basketball career in which he earned roughly $62 million in total salary, he became one of many former professional athletes who lost millions of dollars.
In an October article for The Player's Tribune, Miles, now 37, wrote an in-depth look at his sudden rise to fame and fortune, and the unfortunate circumstances that led to him burning through his money by the time he was 35.
Miles was raised in East St. Louis, where his father "wasn't really in my life," he says in The Player's Tribune article titled "What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles?" His bus-driver mother raised him more or less on her own.
"When you pop out the womb in East St. Louis, it's guns, drugs and danger, from start to finish," Miles writes. "And I'm not saying that to brag or nothing. It's just what it is. It's the murder capital."
At just 18, Miles made the leap from playing high school basketball to the NBA, to escape his surroundings. He became the third overall selection of the 2000 NBA draft and signed a contract with the Los Angeles Clippers that paid him roughly $3 million per year.
Becoming an instant millionaire made the change that much more of a culture shock for Miles. In the article, Miles writes about being flown to Los Angeles on a private jet by the Clippers after signing with the team. Upon landing, he and teammate Quincy Richardson were greeted by a black town car and a driver holding a sign with their names.
"It was surreal. I'm coming straight outta high school to this," Miles writes.
In addition to his NBA earnings, Miles also signed an endorsement deal with Nike and he even acted in a pair of movies: 2002's "Van Wilder," with Ryan Reynolds, and the 2004 teen heist movie "The Perfect Score," which also starred Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans.
Miles adds that, as a young person quickly coming into a large sum of money, it was easy to assume that he was set for life.
"When you're young, you think the money is gonna last forever," Miles writes. "I don't care how street smart you are, or who you got in your corner, when you go from not having anything to making millions of dollars at 18, 19 years old, you're not going to be prepared for it."
Miles never quite lived up to the high expectations the basketball world had for him as a teenager. He never made an NBA All-Star team, but he did manage to play in the league for four teams over eight seasons, earning a total of $61.9 million in career salary in that time, including a high point of $9 million from the Portland Trailblazers in 2008, according to the website Basketball Reference. His NBA career that was prematurely cut short by a knee injury and he declared bankruptcy only about six years later.
Despite the fact that there are countless cautionary tales of young star athletes who blow their paydays on "buying Ferraris or whatever," Miles says that wasn't necessarily his problem. Instead, his advice is to avoid bad investment opportunities.
"Listen, it takes a long time to go broke buying Ferraris," Miles says. "What makes you go broke are shady business deals. They'll make the money disappear quick."
When it comes to exactly how bad business deals sank his finances, Miles does not go into great detail in The Player's Tribune. But he reportedly lost more than $100,000 in one 2008 California real estate deal that he noted when he filed for bankruptcy protection two years ago. Miles reportedly listed $1.57 million in total liabilities, including $282,041 in debt to the Internal Revenue Service and a $20,000 child support debt.
Meanwhile, Miles also lost money as part of an investment group — which also featured other St. Louis-based stars like former NFL running back Marshall Faulk and rapper Nelly — after a bad real estate deal in downtown St. Louis resulted in multiple multi-million dollar lawsuits in a legal battle with a local lender.
Miles also notes that personal issues exacerbated his financial problems, including suffering from depression for several years following his mother's death from cancer in 2013.
After declaring bankruptcy, Miles was forced to auction off many of his belongings in order to raise money to pay off his debts in 2016. The auction included items of sports memorabilia like an autographed LeBron James jersey that sold for $1,500, as well as thousands of DVDs and video games and expensive firearms, like a Ruger AR-556 (a rifle that can cost more than $900), according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Miles describes his rough upbringing inends his personal essay in The Player's Tribune by noting that, after the bankruptcy, he moved to Florida to live near his friend and former teammate, Richardson, and that he's now doing "alright."
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