When Athletes Make It Obvious How Little Fiscal Responsibility They Have

By Will Strecker, University of Texas at Austin

We all know that professional athletes make ungodly amounts of money.

More than you or me. More than your dad or your mom. More than you and me and your dad and your mom combined and multiplied by ten.

And to everyone except your rich uncle (who’s not “technically” your uncle but has a wittle secret that, for the right price, mommy pwomises not to tell), the grotesque amount of money that athletes make is inconceivable. Hundreds of thousands and tens of millions of dollars, most of which goes to young men in their twenties without college degrees.

What’s less astonishing: How often these multi-millionaires claim bankruptcy shortly after hanging up the cleats. The problem is so pervasive—and so destructive—that the NFL and NBA have taken to mandating Fiscal Literacy classes for rookies, and Herm Edwards’ “You only need one” financial advice (car, house, jewelry, woman) is embarrassingly poignant.

So if you, like them, find yourself asking where all the money went, look no farther. Study Breaks has compiled a list of some of the biggest money-wasting purchases in the history of professional sports, and even a few in the non-professional arena. Next time you’re eating uncooked ramen cause you couldn’t pay the water bill, think about this and seethe.

1. Allen Iverson

As a professional basketball player, travelling 41 times a year for away games can get pretty exhausting. And I’m sure having to tote luggage around 41 times a year can make the process even more tedious. A.I.’s solution? Don’t bother with luggage.

Instead, buy new clothes in every city that you travel to, every time you travel to a new city. A small price to pay for convenience, right? When you’re a superstar basketball player, sure. When you’re an ex-superstar basketball player flirting with bankruptcy, not so much.

2. Novak Djokovic

In 2012, Novak Djokovic bought the only farm in the world that produces “pule.” Never heard of pule? Not surprising: It’s Serbian donkey cheese, and if you want some, you have to go through Djokovic.

A pound of the stuff can cost well over $1000, even exceeding $3000 in some cases. It’s been described as “white, crumbly, and very, very rich,” like Djokovic.

Initially, rumors flew that the tennis superstar just loves the stuff and bought the entire world’s supply out of an odd hoarding reflex. Headlines like “Djokovic Buys World’s Supply of Donkey Cheese” definitely pushed some papers, but the reality soon came to light.

Djokovic, a Serbian, was interested in supporting the exclusively Serbian product, and purchased the rights of access as a means of supporting the cottage (cheese) industry, so more “Buy Local” than “Megalomaniacal Cheese Tycoon.” Still, I can’t say donkey cheese strikes me as fecund ROI material. How long does that cheese keep, Novak? 

3. Vince Young

Aside from leading the Texas Longhorns to a 2005 Rose Bowl in one of the best football games of all time, Vince Young has done little else to warrant any kind of praise in the past decade.

After being drafted second overall in the 2006 NFL Draft to the Tennessee Titans, Young proceeded to throw his money away on stupid investment after stupid investment.

USDA Prime example: the Vince Young Steakhouse in downtown Austin, which he doesn’t even own anymore. Throw on weekly 5K tabs at the Cheesecake Factory and a habit of $600 shots of Louis XIII, and the picture begins to get a little clearer.

But more than anything, his public-flight-turned-private-flight flex takes the cheesecake. In 2007, after a game in Houston, Young decided that he wanted to travel back to Nashville alone. Wanting some peace and quiet after a long week is understandable.

Buying out an entire Southwest Airlines commercial flight (120 of 130 seats) in order to have some peace and quiet, less so. According to reasonable estimates, the price of one night’s solitude cost him in the ballpark of $30,000. For a flight. It’s gotta be pretty difficult to blow $26 million in six years, but goddangit Vince worked hard at it and he earned every penny of his bankruptcy.

4. Chris Singleton

The former Wizards forward once had a great idea for turning his rookie contract into millions overnight. Singleton spent nearly $10,000 on lottery tickets in the hopes that with the odds in his favor, that $10,000 would turn into $640 million.

Had he won, Singleton might still be in the NBA today, filling a role player position on some team for a discount. Instead, not one of Singleton’s 5,000 tickets yielded the winning combination, and now he plays for some irrelevant Euroleague team. Smart move if you ask me.

5. Deshawn Stevenson

Can you, reader, ever imagine a situation in which you needed an ATM so badly that you wished there was one in your house? You probably can’t, and I definitely can’t, but Deshawn Stevenson can and did.

In 2011, the Brooklyn Net spent around $3,500 to have said ATM installed in his kitchen, which prompts several questions: Whose money was in the ATM? Why would Stevenson pay the reported $4.50 withdrawal fee to access his own money? Why was it so important that he had easy access to cash?

Did he ever get frustrated using the tedious “Withdrawal/Deposit/Account Balance” menu every time he needed to move money around? Is there any purpose to this other than making it ultra convenient for his homies to buy drugs, guns and other illegal things from you? Did he have severe agoraphobia? How stupid did he feel when Venmo came out? Could he bust it open like a plastic piggy bank if he needed to?

6. Marquis Daniels

I like to think players for my hometown teams are incapable of being stupid. Alas, this is not the case. Daniels was drafted by my Mavericks back in ‘03 and played in Dallas until ‘06, but it wasn’t until he was with the Celtics in ‘09 that he made a purchase so stereotypical, so utterly flippant, so short sighted and exorbitant that it leaves me at a loss for words.

Daniels bought a chain. A chain of his face. A 3-D chain of his face. A custom made, 3-D, Marquis Daniels shrunken head made from 1.3 kilograms of 14 karat gold (the gold alone would cost $45,000 today).

Although Daniels never disclosed the total cost, cover a softball-sized gold replica of a head with diamonds, add on black-diamond chain dreads and labor costs, and the price of this this could approach $100,000, which is a reasonable estimate, which would only be accurate if Marquis Daniels were a reasonable person. Which he clearly isn’t.

7. Mike Tyson

As alluded to in The Hangover, Mike Tyson is an avid fan of tigers. But when he declared bankruptcy in 2003, his financial records showed that his tiger hobby was partly to blame for his insolvency. With an initial start-up fee of $140,000 in shipping alone, Tyson was in murky financial waters from the outset.

Mike Tyson with all his money

Add to that a monthly upkeep of around $4,000/tiger, multiplied by 3 tigers 12 times a year, and it becomes apparent that Tyson spent an astounding $144,000 minimum just in caring for his precious pets.

Plus, since Bengal tigers can live up to 18 years in captivity, he was looking at a potential $2.6 million buy-in. As badass as tigers are, and as great a boxer as Tyson was, he probably should just have got a pit bull.

8. Floyd Mayweather

Floyd “Money” Mayweather’s outlandish spending habits are well documented. And while I’m all for placing bets on sports, some countries don’t make as much money in a year as Mayweather bet on Super Bowl XLVIII.

In 2014, the boxer wagered $10 million that the Denver Broncos would beat the Seattle Seahawks. The Broncos lost the game, and Mayweather lost $10 million dollars. And to make things even sweeter, the game was never even close.

The Seahawks smashed the Broncos 43-8, putting up the third-highest point differential in Super Bowl history. I guess for someone who makes over $100 million per fight, $10 million here and there is nothing. But still, $10 million dollars. Gone. On one game.

9. Ohio State Buckeyes

Back in 2010, it came to light that several of Ohio State’s football players were trading team memorabilia to Edward Rife, the owner of a tattoo parlor and convicted drug trafficker. Of the players accused, and later proven guilty, quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Daniel Herron were the two big names.

Pryor and Herron, among others, reportedly traded or sold at least nine Big Ten championship rings, 15 pairs of cleats, four or five jerseys and a National Championship ring for either cash or tattoos from Rife himself. The items were given away or sold for relatively cheap according to investigators.

This was a massive no-no under NCAA rules, and while no one went bankrupt, there were massive ramifications. The athletes were declared ineligible, Ohio State was barred from post-season play for years and beloved coach Jim Tressel lost his job. And they say tattoos are permanent.

10. Curt Schilling

For someone so great at what he did, Curt Schilling wasn’t so great at managing his money. After retiring, the former ace pitcher decided to open a video game studio, 38 Studios (named after his number).

The studio’s only game, “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” actually did moderately well, selling a million copies. But isn’t it kind of weird that a professional baseball player wouldn’t make some kind of baseball video game?

But despite the marginal success of his mythical, Lord of the Rings-esque attempt, in order to break even the game needed to sell three million copies. 38 Studios went belly up after six years and ended up costing Schilling over $50 million.

11. Patrick Peterson

While this isn’t a purchase, it is an example of a large sum of money being put to exactly zero uses. Normally when if you’re given a check for $15 million, your first stop is to the bank to cash that hoe.

Patrick Peterson, for god knows what reasons, has yet to cash his signing bonus and initial contract check. In Peterson’s defense, it’ll be a nice rainy day fund when he’s retired and looking for something to do.

12. Terrell Owens

The future Hall of Fame wide receiver who made close to $100 million in the NFL over his career is now broke AF. Like many before him, he’s attributed his bankruptcy mostly to external causes. One such undeniable source of financial and mental hardship for T.O. was the purchase of a bingo hall in Alabama that featured electronic bingo machines.Terrel Owens opened a casino in a state where gambling is illegeal

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with such a purchase, unless, of course, bingo is considered gambling in a state where gambling is illegal. Getting to the point: Owens bought an illegal gambling establishment in the anti-gambling state of Alabama.

To make matters worse, he didn’t even get all the necessary licenses to run the business, which led to the forced shut down of the establishment and a loss of $2 million. Also, it’s against NFL policy for players to own a gambling establishment, so he was punished further by the NFL.

13. Eddy Curry

Steph can be grateful that Eddy shares no relation, because the guy is a world class doof. Among many idiotic accomplishments, Eddy took out a loan for $575,000 with an astonishing 85% interest rate, and when we has taken to court after defaulting the loan, said he had nowhere near the $1.2 million he owed the company.

What did he need the loan for, exactly? Bills. Specifically, he needed the money to pay back cable bills that totaled over $1,000 a month. Whoa. How much Skinemax can you watch?