Whatever Happened To Sinbad?

Throughout much of the 1980s and '90s, Sinbad was pretty much everywhere. For a time, it seemed like you couldn't turn on the television or see a movie without seeing the comedian. Suffice to say, he had his hands in many pots.

While he was surely busy with all of the comedy specials he headlined in the final decade of the old millennium, he found time to branch out into other areas of entertainment. He played Coach Oakes on "A Different World," had a sitcom with his name on it, and appeared in numerous movies throughout the 1990s, such as "Houseguest," "Jingle All the Way," and "Coneheads." And then... Well, he wasn't gone entirely, but the Sinbad of old was nowhere to be seen.

Sinbad continued to work sporadically, appearing in several films, comedy specials, and TV shows. He kept himself busy through the early 2000s, but most of his work was done behind a microphone instead of in front of a camera. What happened to the overly energetic comic that made millions laugh through the latter part of the 20th century? For many of his fans, he seemed to drop off the face of the Earth. Sinbad was aware of his waning status and even poked fun at himself via his 2010 special titled "Where U Been?"

Careers have their peaks and valleys, but Sinbad's was all peak for a long time. So how did he go from comedy goldmine to someone who's left people wondering what happened to Sinbad? Read on.

Things kicked into high gear on Star Search

Before he was known as Sinbad, David Adkins worked several jobs, including serving a stint in the United States Air Force. While serving, Adkins competed in the Air Force's Talent Contest in 1981, which he lost. As he told Pasadena Weekly, he also repeatedly went AWOL to pursue other interests, hoping to be kicked out, and finally, he was discharged for "parking my car in the wrong position."

Adkins' interest in stand-up comedy developed from his experiences in (and out of) the USAF. He decided the best way to make a name for himself was to literally come up with a new name. As he shared with Ebony (via The Laugh Button), he chose "Sinbad" out of admiration for the character in "Sinbad the Sailor," and he's been called that ever since. His first big break came by way of talent competition series "Star Search," which saw him go up against Dennis Miller and John Kassir, the latter of whom ultimately won

Despite coming in second place, Sinbad's career was moving along, and before long, he scored the role of Byron Lightfoot on "The Redd Foxx Show." Unfortunately, the show suffered from poor ratings and a competitive time slot, so it was canceled after a few months with only 13 episodes. Still, it helped Sinbad get his foot in the professional comedy door. He had a walk-on appearance on "The Cosby Show" in 1987, and that gig springboarded him into a recurring role on the spinoff series "A Different World."

A Different World catapulted Sinbad's career

Following his earlier successes, Sinbad continued working in television, with his breakout role happening on "A Different World." The show offered him more opportunities to get in front of an audience than his previous work, and his career benefited greatly. He played Coach Walter Oakes from 1988 to 1991, appearing in 74 episodes. He left the series to pursue other projects, explaining to Vanity Fair that he was interested in working in films and developing his own TV series (via JustNje).

His work on "A Different World" proved he was a hot commodity, so Fox offered him his own eponymous series, which premiered in 1993. "The Sinbad Show" wasn't exactly based on the comedian's life, but it did mirror certain aspects of it. On the show, Sinbad played David Bryan, a bachelor who takes in two foster children. At the same time, Sinbad had recently divorced but got joint custody of his two children (per Jet).

Soon after the show premiered, Sinbad spoke about how his private life and work on the series helped him transition into living and working as a single parent. "The Sinbad Show" wasn't a huge success, and Fox ended up canceling it after only one season. That said, Sinbad was nominated for favorite television actor at the 1995 Kids' Choice Awards. The series cancellation didn't put the comedian down because 1990 was the year he scored his first HBO Comedy Special, "Sinbad: Brain Damaged," and that's where he truly made his mark on the entertainment industry.

Sinbad's work with HBO made him a superstar

In the 1990s, one of the best ways for a comedian to build a large audience was to land a gig on HBO. That happened for Sinbad in 1991, when he released his first comedy special, "Sinbad: Brain Damaged," on the channel. It was recorded in front of a packed house at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. The special proved to be incredibly popular with comedy that still holds up decades later, making Sinbad a superstar.

This was when Sinbad's career really took off because, while he had success in television, his HBO special made him a household name. Sinbad's work for HBO personified the phrase "hit the ground running," because he didn't stop with one special. While working in every facet of the entertainment industry he could find work in, he continued making new HBO comedy specials, each of which furthered his fame and prominence.

In 1993, he packed the house at New York City's Paramount Theater at Madison Square Garden, when he recorded his second special, "Sinbad: Afros and Bellbottoms." That special nabbed him an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Variety Special. The following year, he released "Sinbad: Son of a Preacher Man," and he just kept going. Special after special saw him receive fame and fortune. More importantly, he was nominated for numerous awards, and his fame only grew.

Sinbad's financial woes

Everyone wants fame and fortune, but getting those things doesn't always work out well. In Sinbad's case, he had difficulty managing his bank account (and paying his taxes). It's not entirely clear when his struggles related to money began, but his work throughout the early 2000s became far less frequent than during the prior decade. His financial issues were likely exacerbated due to infrequent work, and he became severely indebted to numerous agencies, including the state of California and the federal government.

At one point, as Time noted, he was on the state of California's top ten list of debtors. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2009 that Sinbad owed the state some $2.5 million in income taxes. The debt was accrued via an unspecified tax lien filed in 2001. Also, in 2009, the Detroit News reported that Sinbad owed the Internal Revenue Service $8.15 million (via The Urban Daily). Being on the hook for that much money — especially when the IRS is involved — isn't necessarily something you can just walk away from.

An assistant U.S. Attorney pursued legal action against Sinbad by going after his home, but as Accounting Today reported, the estate was in his brother's name. All of the mortgage payments and property taxes paid were made from Sinbad's account, and the IRS came for the money. According to the IRS, Sinbad filed his tax returns through 2006 but failed to pay what he owed at the end of each year, resulting in a sizable debt.

He filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009

Being $8.15 million in the hole is no joke. Because he owed millions in back taxes to both the state of California and the federal government, Sinbad's money troubles caused him no end of problems. And those problems would carry on for years. As TMZ recounted, the "Jingle All the Way" star filed for bankruptcy in December 2009. According to the Detroit News (via The Urban Daily), he went for Chapter 7, "claiming between $10 and $50 million in liabilities and less than $50,000 in assets." Evidently he did not file correctly, and his case ended up not going anywhere due to the paperwork error. A few years later, he would try the bankruptcy thing again (more on that in a bit). 

As Variety noted, Sinbad put his Hidden Hills mansion on the market in early 2010, and the outlet found the timing rather curious. "We can't think of a single other reason he'd choose to sell in the midst of filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy," they wrote. The massive abode was up for $3 million. You know, pocket change.

Sinbad regretted going on Celebrity Apprentice

As is common for celebrities whose career is in a slump, Sinbad turned to the world of reality television. He appeared on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" during the program's 2010 season. Sinbad had known the future politician for years, having performed in various Trump Casinos in the 1980s. That said, he wasn't exactly a fan, telling Pasadena Weekly, "He's always been a jerk and selfish. New Yorkers let him get away with too much, like a baby that doesn't get corrected, and it grows up a nightmare."

Despite his low opinion of Trump, he agreed to appear on his reality series. "'The Apprentice' was supposed to be a joke, picking a guy who was bankrupt multiple times and letting him tell people they're fired," he explained to the outlet. However, it ended up being no laughing matter, as he came to regret doing the series. "I should have never done the show, but they said it was for charity," he said, before going on to add that altruism "was the last thing on [Trump's] mind."

Ultimately, Sinbad was "fired" from the program, having lost to Bret Michaels. Speaking about his experience on "Oprah, Where Are They Now?" (via HuffPost), Sinbad said that he wished he'd used the "You're fired!" catchphrase during his boardroom scene.

This wouldn't be his final foray into reality TV: In 2011, a reality show called "Sinbad: It's Just Family" premiered. As you might've deduced, it starred Sinbad and his family.

He ran into multiple medical problems

Back in the 1970s, Sinbad was more interested in playing professional basketball than pursuing a career in comedy. He played for the University of Denver, but as the Daily Press noted, knee problems "forced him out of basketball." Knee injuries have a way of coming back around and causing problems later in life, and that's precisely what happened to Sinbad.

In 2010, those issues with his knees finally caught up with Sinbad. It wasn't just one either; he required two knee replacement surgeries, the first of which he talked about in a comedy special aptly titled "Where U Been?" As he put it on 105.3's "Tom Joyner Morning Show," he's now "bionic as hell." He ran into another problem in 2015 when he required spinal fusion surgery (per UPI). The comedian hasn't gone into detail regarding how he injured his back, but he kept his fans updated on Twitter through his recovery.

If there are two things that come with medical problems, it's time and money. The cost of medical procedures, even if you're insured, can be astronomical. For example, a Blue Cross Blue Shield study found that the average cost for a knee replacement hovers around $30,000. Add to that the recovery time and inability to work, and a public figure can wind up losing opportunities in an industry that loathes a vacuum. Sinbad managed to make several appearances between 2010 and 2015, but his celebrity profile was nowhere where it had been in previous years. 

He filed for bankruptcy again in 2013

In 2013, Sinbad returned to the courts, asking for bankruptcy assistance once more. According to TMZ, which broke the story, most of the money he owed at this time was to the IRS for income received (and not paid in income taxes) between 2009 and 2012. He also owed around $400,000 to various banks and $2.3 million to California's Franchise Tax Board. The filing indicated that he owed almost $11 million but had only $131,000 to his name. 

And then, reports surfaced that he supposedly filed for Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7. However, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, this supposed filing apparently did not add up. "There is no way that Sinbad could qualify for Chapter 13 given the type of debts he owes," they wrote, adding that "his unsecured debt exceeds the jurisdictional limits for Chapter 13." Nevada-based firm Freedom Law Firm also addressed the confusion regarding what exactly was filed: "Blogs (including this one) and news outlets picked up on the story and discussed Sinbad's woes and his opportunities in bankruptcy. The problem was Sinbad didn't file Chapter 13. He was not eligible."

Whatever he filed, it sure seemed to work out: As far as we can tell, this one was not dismissed like the one from 2009.

Sinbad kept spending

There are plenty of examples of celebrities who spend their money (and their creditors' money) on things nobody could want or need. Heck, Nicolas Cage once dropped $276,000 on a dinosaur skull. Needless to say, fans aren't often surprised to learn that a celeb has blown a lot of money on something crazy. However, if you look through the headlines, you're not going to find a story like that about Sinbad.

The comedian has spoken about his money problems since they've become public knowledge, and according to him, he doesn't spend lavishly. In various interviews, he was quick to dispel any rumors of the kind. Most of his debts to financial institutions revolved around businesses he kept afloat during difficult financial times. This included payroll and equipment costs he often had to pay out of pocket. 

Sinbad told HuffPost, "I spent money, and I kept thinking, 'I get one more movie, and I'll wipe these bills out,' but that movie never came. That black pride, I said, 'Man, I'm going to hang in there, I'm going to pay these bills.' So you owe a million dollars. I can pay that. OK, fines, fees, now you owe two and a half million. 'But I didn't do nothin'!' Now you owe four million.'" In the same interview, he pointed out that he's never spent his money lavishly, saying, "Have you ever seen me in a Bentley? Have you ever seen Sinbad with a big chain?" 

He managed to figure out his debts in 2013

Being saddled with a mountain of debt isn't something that's easy to walk away from, but Sinbad managed to do it. Granted, it took several years, multiple court filings, and a lot of work. Still, the comedian was able to pull himself out of his financial hole in 2013. News of his achievement was broken by TMZ when a reporter for the website ran into Sinbad at LAX. It was then that the comedian explained that his money problems were finally at an end.

According to Sinbad, he's "past financial, I'm on to murder." Don't worry, he hasn't taken up a new homicidal hobby, but he has spent some time dismissing people online, which he elaborated on by saying, "I killed some folks on Facebook, so I'm working with that. Anger issues." Essentially, the bottom line from Sinbad's interaction with TMZ in late July 2013 is that he's finally out of debt and doesn't want to talk about his money problems ever again.

The details of how he managed to overcome nearly $11 million in tax and personal debt aren't clear (we assume filing for bankruptcy played a big role), but hey, whatever he did clearly worked. At the time of writing, Celebrity Net Worth lists his net worth at $4 million. 

He starred in a movie that doesn't exist

If you were aware of Sinbad's existence and watched him in movies and on television throughout the 1990s, odds are you recall one of his most famous roles — or think you do. Sinbad never starred in the movie "Shazaam," despite tons of people believing he did, and his own children have appeared on various programs, such as NBCLX, to dispel the myth.

How did this happen? Enter the Mandela Effect, a phenomenon where a false memory is held by a large group of people. Said phenomenon can describe something simple, like believing the Monopoly Man wears a monocle (he doesn't). In Sinbad's case, it's the belief that he starred in a movie that doesn't exist. Whatever the reason for this widespread belief (as his kids told NBCLX, the confusion is likely related to Shaquille O'Neal's genie movie, "Kazaam"), Sinbad managed to capitalize on the world's collective misremembering of him via a CollegeHumor Originals piece he wrote and starred in called "We Found Sinbad's SHAZAAM Genie Movie!" 

As Entertainment Weekly put it, CollegeHumor and Sinbad "won April Fools' Day." The site claimed a member of the team "found this VHS in a box behind a shut-down Blockbuster." The statement continued, "It's quite damaged, and most of it has been recorded over, but what's there is classic cinema and movie magic. We're excited to share it with audiences at large." The whole thing turned out to be a joke at the world's expense via a short trailer.

He's been working, but he's been out of sight

Sinbad seemingly disappeared from the limelight, and that's partially true. That said, the comedian has worked for decades, and his recent activity has afforded him many new opportunities. The big difference is that while he occasionally appears in specials and walk-on roles, most of his latest work has been behind a microphone.

Like many people in his profession, Sinbad has cultivated a unique voice. That's not to say he sounds unique, but his manner of speaking and style manages to come across through his voice, and he's capitalized on that. Sinbad started doing voiceover work in 1996, playing Riley in "Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco," but he became more prolific in the 2010s. Some of his recent credits include playing Uroho on "The Lion Guard," Mr. Smiley on "Steven Universe," Roper in "Planes," Eddie in "Slacker Cats," and the list goes on. 

While his voice credits have grown, he's still managed to find work doing various comedy specials and other similar programming. In 2018, he landed a recurring role as Dad/Malcolm X on "Rel." That credit ended after 12 episodes in 2019, and as of December 2021, it's his most recent live-action acting role. His reduced workload was likely the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but more than that, it was a health issue that resulted in a complete cessation of work.

Sinbad was sidelined by a stroke

After years of money problems and several medical issues, Sinbad's career was finally on the rise once more. However, in November 2020, Sinbad had a stroke. The news of his condition was broken by his family via a release in the AP: "It is out of sincere love that we share Sinbad, our beloved husband and father, is recovering from a stroke."

In the statement, it isn't clear when he had the stroke or how severe it was, but the Adkins family did say he was recovering. The statement was brief and gave little detail while highlighting Sinbad's contributions to his craft. "Sinbad is a light source of love and joy for many generations," the statement continued. "While he is beginning his road to recovery, we are faithful and optimistic that he will bring laughter into our hearts soon." The family closed out the statement, asking for privacy during Sinbad's recovery.

Since the stroke, very little information has been revealed about how he's doing or when he might be expected to return to work, or if that's even possible. The only news to date came in December, when Sinbad's children, Royce and Paige, shared a video on their father's Instagram page. They said that he was getting better each day and shared Sinbad's words from earlier in the pandemic: "We need each other to get through this journey. I can't wait to see you all again soon. As always, stay funky, stay prayed up!"

His friends in the industry showed their support

Sinbad has been out of action since he had a stroke in November 2020, but that doesn't mean his friends and fans have forgotten about him. He may not have been able to perform, but Sinbad's many friends in the industry came out in full force to support him in the best way they know how: they put on a comedy special in his honor.

In June of 2021, 1 For Sinbad: The Bad Ass Comedy Show took place at the Nashville Comedy Festival. According to Now Playing Nashville,  it was "a benefit event featuring some of the top comedians in the industry live on stage as Sinbad's friends and fans come together to support his road to recovery." That roster included DL Hughley, Faizon Love, Arnez J., Bruce Bruce, and more. Sinbad's children attended the show, and they shared some of their father's words while also giving an update on his recovery. In a statement on his Instagram page, his children wrote, "We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from his comedy community and fans. To every comedian who performed and everyone who made this event possible, our family is so grateful!" Laughter may not cure all, but it sure can be a good medicine.