Athletes Who Are Poorer Than You Thought

Becoming a professional athlete is like winning the lottery, twice. The first jackpot: sports people with world-class abilities get to focus their lives on a game, earning a place of prominence in their high school, getting into a college of their choice, and then moving on to the big leagues or the Olympics. (Okay, okay, so practice, dedication, and sacrifice has a lot to do with that narrative too.) Anyway, going pro also involves getting paid an obscene amount of money. That's when athletes hit the literal jackpot, often earning salaries in the $100 million-plus range, and that's not even counting the beaucoup bucks they earn appearing in sneaker or hot dog commercials. 

However, managing a fortune requires a skill set unto itself. And while some baseball all-stars, basketball phenoms, hockey hotshots, and medal-winning Olympians (among other high-profile figures who dominate popular sports) are in fact beyond wealthy, others were too busy perfecting their skills to take any financial planning classes. Here are some world-class athletes that are much poorer than you thought.

Perhaps this athlete needed a T.O.

Terrell Owens scored 156 touchdowns (only four wide receivers have ever scored more) over a 15-year career that included stops in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. Perhaps he changed teams so often because he was very hard to be around. In 2005 alone, Owens reportedly asked for a new contract, claiming the $7.5 million he'd earned the previous year wasn't enough to put food on the table; got into a fight with Eagles coach Andy Reid at training camp; dissed team quarterback Donovan McNabb to the press; and was subsequently suspended for most the season. Even then, Owens took home a sweet $80 million, which seems like more than enough to feed even the largest of families.

Or maybe T.O. has a much bigger family than previously reported, considering his net worth has since dwindled down to an estimated $100,000. In 2012, GQ summed up his situation this way: "He's out of work, out of money, and currently in court with all four of his baby mamas. And now for the part that really depresses him: For the first time in his long, checkered, and spectacular career, nobody wants to throw him the ball."

Vin Baker will happily misspell your name

Basketball great Vin Baker was very much a journeyman player — he suited up for six teams in 13 seasons. He averaged 15 points per game over his career and was named to four all-star teams, but those accolades and big stats fizzled in the 2000s. While playing for the Boston Celtics, a coach smelled booze on Baker's breath. The team suspended him, prompting Baker to admit that he was a recovering alcoholic.

Nevertheless, Baker amassed around $100 million while playing professional basketball, including an $86 million contract he signed in 1997. According to the Providence Journal, the Celtics suspended him three times, then canceled the deal (about $36 million remained). But Baker's financial headaches were just getting started. He also invested in a restaurant (Vinnie's Saybrook Fish House) that went out of business, lost a house, and sued his accountant for mismanagement of funds and breach of contract. 

But here's the awesome part: Baker mounted a successful comeback! According to the Providence Journal, he got a job at Starbucks and enrolled in the company's management training program. By 2015, he was well on his way to managing one of the chain's coffeehouses, and has a accumulated a reported net worth of $500,000.

Game over for athlete Curt Schilling

Over the course of a 20-year career in Major League Baseball, Curt Schilling made a lot of money – reportedly in the neighborhood of $115 million. It was all worth it to Red Sox fans: Schilling was instrumental in the team's historic "curse"-breaking 2004 World Series win. However, by the time he hung up his cleats (and his famous bloody socks) in 2009, Schilling had lost an alarming $50 million of his savings. What happened to the rest of it? 

He spent most of it on video games. Okay, so he didn't keep plugging quarters into an arcade game in the back of a pizza parlor. Schilling invested the vast majority of his fortune in a failed video game company called 38 Studios. (Schilling's jersey number was 38.) "My whole life was spent doing things that people didn't believe were possible, because God blessed me with the ability to throw a baseball. And I carried that same mentality into everything I did here," he told Boston magazine in 2012, after the company defaulted on $75 million worth of state loans. 

Schilling pushed back against claims that he'd squandered taxpayer money. "I have done whatever I can do to create jobs and create a successful business with my own income ... everything I've saved, has been put back into the economy," he said (via ESPN). "And so how does that translate into welfare baby? I've tried to do right by people."

Marion Jones couldn't run from her lawyer bills

Track and field stars are generally not the most handsomely paid athletes — unless they're Olympic champions who perform so well on the international stage that they become household names and can command huge performance fees and endorsement deals. In other words, people like Marion Jones.

At the 2000 Summer Olympics, Jones won a remarkable five medals, including three gold, but just three years later, she was linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) — a company raided by the feds for allegedly distributing performance-enhancing drugs. According to CBS Sports, Jones racked up a lot of legal fees fighting the doping scandal. By 2006, the disgraced Olympian's finances were in dire straits. A bank foreclosed on her $2.5 million mansion, and she had to sell another home where her mother lived. By 2007, Jones claimed she had a bank balance of just $2,000. That same year, she pleaded guilty to lying about steroid use to federal investigators. As of 2019, her net worth is an estimated $500,000.

The athlete known as 'The Answer' has a lot to answer for

Allen Iverson had a basketball career for the ages. When he closed up shop, the hall of famer concluded a run that earned him a rookie of the year crown, an MVP award, and four scoring titles. Alas, his talents did not extend to money management. 

According to Basketball Forever, Iverson amassed roughly $200 million during his career, but blew through most of it. Apparently, his 50-man-strong entourage wasn't cheap to maintain, and he also made some bad investments. Instead of stocks or real estate, he reportedly put his money in garbage bags — like he literally put piles of cash in garbage bags at his house — and they somehow disappeared. Iverson's money woes came to light when a jeweler sued him for an unpaid tab. According to TMZ, the baller claimed he couldn't pay the roughly $860,000 settlement because he had $360,000 in monthly expenses against a $62,500 monthly income. 

The silver lining: Iverson made at least one solid financial decision. Back in the day, he signed a lucrative contract with Reebok that would give him access to a $32 million trust fund when he turns 55 in 2030. Brilliant, right? Not so fast. According to Complex, Iverson had to forfeit the entire trust to his ex-wife, Tawanna, for violating the terms of a postnuptial agreement, but she later agreed to share half of it with him. Celebrity Net Worth shows that Iverson is worth $1 million.

No net profits for Boris Becker

Boris Becker was one of the brightest stars in tennis, and he started early. The West German phenom turned pro in 1984, and just a year later, he won his first of three men's singles titles at Wimbledon ... and he was only 17. By the time he retired from tennis in 1996, before the age of 30, Becker had won 49 singles and 15 doubles career titles.

The master of the one-on-one sport also liked to go one-on-one with beautiful ladies. He married actress and model Barbara Feltus in 1993 (and had two kids with her), but he reportedly cheated on her with model Angela Ermakowa (and had a kid with her, too). The financial aspects of Becker's divorce and paternity predicaments cost him about $25 million, reported The Telegraph. He was then convicted of tax evasion and had to pay out another $3 million or so. Becker declared bankruptcy in 2017. He reportedly also declared: "It's crazy to think I'm broke." All that said, Becker reportedly boasts a net worth of an estimated $10 million.

Maybe athlete Dennis Rodman can rebound from this

Before he inexplicably became BFFs with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Dennis Rodman was just a quirky, heavily-tattooed, referee-head-butting basketball player who dated (and nearly impregnated?) Madonna, married Carmen Electra, announced his intentions to marry himself, and dyed his hair bright colors long after he was probably too old to do that. Rodman is also one of the best defensive players in NBA history. The hall of famer sits at no. 23 on the all-time rebound leaders list, leading the league in rebounds per season every year from 1991 to 1997. 

Those stats, along with being an important part of five NBA championship teams, meant Rodman could command a huge salary. He reportedly peaked with a reported $9 million in the 1996-97 season, and in total, the NBA paid "The Worm" about $27 million for his efforts. That's like Powerball-level money, and now it's almost all gone. Along with reportedly owing over $800,000 in child support in 2012, and apparently being scammed by a financial advisor, Rodman is reportedly down to his last $500,000.

In September 2019, Rodman told Business Insider, "I just give players advice like this: if you build yourself up to go and play a game that you love to play ... What is left for you to achieve? You got the main thing you want: money ...  'I want to stay rich.' Okay, great. Don't we all?"

'The Real Deal's' bad deal

Two of boxing's biggest heavyweight stars squared off in November 1996, when Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield scored a TKO over the heavily favored Mike "Iron Mike" Tyson. At a rematch seven months later, Tyson was famously disqualified when he bit off a chunk of Holyfield's earTyson's troubles inside and outside the ring (bankruptcy, convicted of rape, domestic abuse) are well-documented, but not everyone realizes that Holyfield also sabotaged his own success.

Being the heavyweight champion of the world won the guy about $230 million, and he clearly had a lot of fun spending it. He dropped a reported $10 million on a 54,000-square-foot mansion on a 235-acre plot in Georgia. The place boasted 109 rooms, a bowling alley, movie theater, stables, and swimming pools. Holyfield claimed the place cost him $1 million a year just to maintain.

According to Redfin, Holyfield was more than $14 million in debt by 2012, when the bank bought his epic house off him for $7.5 million. Another cash drain for Holyfield: legal settlements and child support problems. Celebrity Net Worth notes that he resorted to auctioning off memorabilia from his career, including his Olympic bronze medal and championship rings, to rid himself of debt.

"Losing everything was hard," Holyfield told BBC Sport. "... The Bible says the second half of your life is going to be better than the first half. I made $230 million in the first half, so I've still got reasons to live."

Not paying taxes? Not a Berry good idea for this athlete

The 1986 New York Mets are one of the most memorable teams in the last few decades of baseball. That year, the squad rolled to a team-record 108 wins, led by all-stars such as Darryl Strawberry, who got to add World Series champion to his resumé that year. The eight-time all star also became the single-season home run leader in 1988 with 39 of those bad boys. However, Strawberry made headlines off the field, too, because for a lot of those baseball years, he apparently wasn't paying his taxes. 

According to court documents (via CBS Sports), Strawberry owed more than half a million bucks from income earned between 1987 and 1990, and another 80 grand from 2003 and 2004. When the IRS came to collect in 2014, it garnished his future earnings in the form of an unpaid portion of a $7.2 million contract he'd signed with the Mets in 1985. Strawberry's reported net worth as of 2019? $1.5 million.

You can take the gold out of 'The Golden Boy'

Diego Maradona, aka "The Golden Boy," is just about the best soccer player that ever was. The Argentinian national hero is literally right up there with Pele. (In 2000, FIFA jointly named both men the best soccer players of the 20th century.) Maradona's finest moment is probably what became known as "The Goal of the Century." In a 1986 World Cup quarterfinal, he drove the ball 180 feet down the pitch, blew off challenges from five English defenders, and scored for Argentina. 

As the biggest soccer star in the world in the 1980s and early '90s, Maradona brought home the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars, but he doesn't have much of that in his possession anymore. According to the Daily Mail, the Italian government seized about $50 million of his assets, alleging he didn't pay his taxes during his pro soccer years in Italy. (Adding insult to injury, the gov also reportedly took his Rolex and his diamond earring.) The former soccer pro's net worth is now an estimated $100,000.

Lindsey Vonn's fortune can't compare to those around her

Lindsey Vonn made her name as an Olympic medal-winning skier who claimed plenty of top titles while being considered "one of [the] greatest skiers of all time." She also has a high profile away from the slopes, having appeared on The Today Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and The Late Late Show with James Corden, just to name a few. 

These are just a few reasons why it's not surprising that Vonn mingles with other elite athletes. However, while she used to date golfer Tiger Woods, who's reportedly worth $800 million, and is engaged to NHL player P.K. Subban, who has an estimated $35 million to his name, the now-retired athlete has a relatively small fortune herself at just $6 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

"Getting paid through ski racing is very, very difficult, " Vonn said during a 2018 episode of Chase and Uninterrupted's Kneading Dough. "If you're not in the top five or 10 in the world, you're struggling to not have to get a second job." That's why she made a significant amount of her money via endorsement deals with Red Bull, Rolex, and Under Armour. Vonn explained that her hope is to "get women in ski racing more publicity and give them the push and the platform that they need to make more money."

Bianca Andreescu has potential but isn't extraordinarily rich yet

Beating the iconic Serena Williams at the 2019 U.S. Open while also claiming her first Grand Slam title proved that tennis star Bianca Andreescu has the potential to continue to win no matter who she faces in the future — and can, therefore, look forward to potentially earning a formidable fortune. Frankly, Forbes reported that same year that she was "closing in on becoming the top prize money earner on the women's WTA Tour this year." And the funds that Andreescu will take in thanks to her time on the court will surely be just a fraction of the amount that she'll make via endorsement deals. Already sponsored by major brands like Nike, BMW, Head, and vegan restaurant chain Copper Branch, she's expected to ink even more money-making contracts down the line. 

However, despite all of that, Celebrity Net Worth estimates that Andreescu only has $4 million to her name, as of this writing, which is largely due to one big win (specifically, that U.S. Open prize money, which reportedly totaled $3,850,000).

According to Global News, the up-and-coming athlete talked to the press in September 2019 about her achievements, explaining, "My mom always says 'don't forget who you are' and 'dream big to get big' and I think I've been doing that for a pretty long time now and I think that's contributing a lot to my success."

Simone Biles is among the best athletes ... but not the wealthiest

Landing flips and rolling across the mats doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be landing a fortune and rolling in dough. Just ask Simone Biles. Despite being the most decorated woman gymnast in history and branching out with onscreen opportunities like Lip Sync Battle and Dancing with the Stars, the Olympic athlete is only estimated to be worth $2 million.

Fortunately for her bank account, like many other sports stars, Biles has locked down her fair share of endorsement deals, including contracts with Nike, Kellogg's, and Hershey's. And fittingly, you can find her name on both gymnastics leotards from GK Elite Sportswear, as well as equipment from Spieth America. Basically, if you've ever thought to yourself, "I could really use a balancing beam made of foam," or wondered what life would be like with a portable pirouette bar, now's your chance to find out! And if you truly want to train like this champion, you'll grab yourself a pair of wireless Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro earphones, which Biles can be seen wearing while twisting, turning, and flying through the air in the brand's promotional video.

Thankfully for Biles, she has the kind of financially-minded motivation that keeps her earning and keeps her from overspending. While chatting with Kneading Dough in April 2019, she admitted, "I have a fear of going broke." That's why, other than spending money on necessities, Biles said, "I never really swipe the [credit] card."

Athlete Jose Canseco breaks down why he went broke

After retiring in 2001, Jose Canseco is still considered one of the most recognizable names in the world of baseball. However, he's yet another athlete who is only estimated to have $500 thousand despite earning $45 million in salary. Unfortunately, the player who was known for his powerful swing spent that money as quickly as it came in.

Canseco has since tried to boost his bank account by stepping over into the realm of reality TV, including popping up on The Surreal Life and VH1's Hollywood Exes. Fans may have also spotted him on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2011. However, he quit the show due to a family emergency and didn't take home a paycheck, but instead earned $25,000 for his charity, the Baseball Assistance Team. Canseco has also tried his hand at celebrity boxing. However, ESPN reports that this ended in a breach of contract lawsuit after he sent his twin brother, Ozzie, to fight in his place. Perhaps all of this is why Canseco decided to sell his 2000 New York Yankees World Series ring, among other treasures.

In 2008, he explained to Inside Edition (via East Bay Times), "You know my life, this financial thing, is a very complicated issue." That's surely putting it mildly, especially when you're talking about this much (and this little) money.

Darren McCarty was a better hockey player than a gambler

Darren McCarty earned over $15 million in salary and endorsements during his time with the NHL, but ended up bankrupt and over $6 million in debt toward the end of his career — which is why he's now only estimated to be worth around $500,000. While McCarty received $538,729 from the Detroit Red Wings when they bought out his contract in 2005, according to ESPN, his ex-wife, Cheryl, was granted $404,046 of that amount. McCarty opened up about his financial problems in a statement the following year, admitting, "It's obviously an embarrassing situation, but as with most things, there is more to it than what it seems."

McCarty may have been referring to his gambling debts, which he also discussed at the time. The Globe and Mail reports that the former hockey player indulged in a high-stakes habit that resulted in him owing DMA Holdings $2 million, Huntington National Bank $1.5 million, and about $185,000 to various casinos.

These days, McCarty, who once dealt with serious alcohol-related issues, has gotten into the cannabis industry and hopes to find renewed success in the expanding field. "I'm all about championship teams," he told the Windsor Star in September 2019. "I've got four Stanley Cups. They've got 45 Cannabis Cups ... I want to win a Cannabis Cup." Hopefully, for McCarty, that cup comes along with a cash prize.

It only took Antoine Walker a couple of years to lose it all

Antoine Walker made more than $108 million as an all-star NBA player, but eventually filed for bankruptcy with $4 million in assets and more than $12 million in debt in 2010. "I thought I was set for the rest of my life," he told CNN Money. "My story is sad. It's sad to see other guys work so hard throughout their life — and then they just lose it in two or three years." 

Walker also talked to CNBC about his money troubles, admitting, "It was my darkest hour." He added, "It's a tough lesson to learn. I wanted to take care of my family; I wanted the best for them. I really didn't have the word 'no' in my vocabulary. It was something I was not used to saying."

Now with around $250,000 to his name, according to Celebrity Net Worth, Walker wants to save others from his fate — which is why he became a consultant for the Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment financial literacy initiative. Along with offering other valuable tips, he had some advice that younger athletes can take to heart (and take to the bank), saying, "You worked so hard to get to this point. Don't blow it. Don't blow the money that comes with it. Remember how hard it was for you to get to that level. Take care of it. Build your team, make sure you preserve it."

Sheryl Swoopes paralleled Michael Jordan on the court, but not his paycheck

Sheryl Swoopes dominated the WNBA as an all-star and MVP who won multiple championships and earned plenty of awards. That's why, in 1995, she signed a signature shoe deal with Nike, becoming the first woman to do so. "It's critical that it was Nike making the decision to develop the signature shoe for Sheryl Swoopes in the '90s, because it was them saying, 'We look at you as being on the same ground in a sense as Michael Jordan,'" sports law and marketing professor Alicia Jessop told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. "It was creating parallels between [Swoopes] and Michael Jordan in terms of the level of athleticism and the level of notoriety." 

Despite this, Swoopes didn't end up the billionaire that Jordan did. Instead, she filed for bankruptcy in 2004 with over $1 million in debts and is estimated to be worth just $200,000. Apparently, being one of the best basketball players around doesn't mean that earning a fortune is going to be a slam dunk.

While Swoopes may not have the biggest personal budget, she seems to have a grasp on how to responsibly manage funds. In October 2019, she tweeted, "I am in need of someone ... who can help me with some financial services for my nonprofit. Any suggestions?" We suggest that other athletes follow suit and find their own financial pros to work with.

Athlete Lenny Dykstra's debt is almost as shocking as his alleged behavior

After retiring from the MLB in 1998, Lenny Dykstra's life became a non-stop storm of reportedly scandalous behavior and iffy endeavors. He not only faced allegations that he used steroids during his career, but also attempted to run a jet charter company and became the publisher of a magazine that failed (via Forbes). Dykstra then filed for bankruptcy in 2009 (at the time, claiming just $50,000 in assets and $10-50 million in liabilities), before being found guilty of federal bankruptcy fraud and sentenced to three years in prison in 2012 for grand theft auto. In 2018, he was charged with drug possession along with allegedly making terroristic threats.

Despite his troubles and reported net worth of minus $25 million, Dykstra told reporters outside the courthouse around the time of his 2018 arrest: "I feel great, man. I mean, like, I could play center field tonight." We wonder what the judge would have had to say about that.

These days, Dykstra uses Twitter to keep his followers updated on his thoughts on the state of the game, but considering how his messages are often perceived as offensive, he likely won't be scoring any new business deals anytime soon. That is, unless those running the show are the kind of people that feed off of controversy and are willing to work with someone who is dealing with more debt than others could possibly fathom.