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8 of the Worst Financial Meltdowns by Athletes

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Athletes never cease to amaze us with incredible feats on the field. No matter the sport, every year seems to bring new heights of physicality, whether leaping over a fence to take a home run away, slamming a running back to the ground or making an impossible move on the pitch to score a goal.

But off the field, their exploits can be somewhat harder to believe. In 2011, ThinkAdvisor looked at the Top 10 Financial Meltdowns by Athletes. That was only the tip of the iceberg. The list of athletes left bankrupt is seemingly endless.

And it isn’t just modern athletes like Antoine Walker (basketball). Athletes from other eras, like Denny McLain (baseball), also serve as cautionary tales.

If they’d had access, many of these players could have been helped by the recent efforts of the NFL Players Association, which ThinkAdvisor wrote about in June: Help for NFL Players Suddenly Rich or Suddenly Retired. The players union’s four-year-old partnership with Financial Finesse, the retirement and financial education provider, expanded their online program allowing current and former NFL players to get unbiased financial guidance by phone.

Unfortunately, many of these athletes are on their own or chose not to take anyone’s advice. Check out ThinkAdvisor’s look at 8 Big Financial Meltdowns by Athletes:

Denny McLain in 2006. (Photo: AP)8. Denny McLain, baseball:
At least $4 million lost

Baseball’s last 30-game winner has faced nothing but losses off the field. Sure he played in the days before even the benchwarmers made millions, but he did take in $200,000 in 1969, split evenly between his salary from the Detroit Tigers and endorsements.

Suspended over gambling allegations in 1970, McLain filed for bankruptcy citing $400,000 in debts and $413 in assets. Strike One. By 1972, he was washed up. From there it was a roller-coaster ride: he wrote a book, ran a bar, sold TV sets, owned walk-in medical clinics, and then, in 1977, filed for bankruptcy, of which the details are hazy. Strike two. From there, McLain ended up spending 30 months in prison in a cocaine-trafficking and racketeering case before the conviction was tossed out for technical reasons. Strike three. Another rise, another a book and a $400,000 a year income at various jobs still left him seeking more. After buying a meatpacking firm in 1995, he was accused in the theft of $3 million from its pension fund. Strike four. After eight years in prison, starting in 1996, he was released. He has proclaimed his innocence ever since. We guess, he’s not quite out.

Dick "Night Train" Lane7. Dick “Night Train” Lane, football:
Estimated $5 million lost

A hard-hitting cornerback in the rough-and-tumble 1950s and ’60s NFL, “Night Train” Lane liked booze, drugs and women. He married the jazz singer Dinah Washington in 1963 — the year she died. After his career, most notably with the Detroit Lions, ended in 1965, Lane quickly used up all his cash. From then on, he lived on pension checks of $800 a month. He died in 2002 at age 74.

Marion Jones after her sentencing in 2008. (Photo: AP)

6. Marion Jones, track:
$7 million lost

Marion Jones was a trailblazer on the track, winning five medals (three gold) at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. But the trail she blazed off the track was all too familiar. First, it was the admission that she had used steroids. Then her medals were stripped. Then came financial ruin.

By 2007, The Los Angeles Times reported her total liquid assets were $2,000. During a war of lawsuits with her former trainer, Jones was asked where her money had gone. The Times quoted her as saying for legal bills and to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. To top off 2007, she pleaded guilty to a check-fraud scam and lying about using steroids, and was sentenced to six months in prison.

Rollie Fingers waving in 2012. (Photo: AP)5. Rollie Fingers, baseball:
$8 million lost

Rollie Fingers was famous for two things: saving baseball games for the Oakland A’s and Milwaukee Brewers in the 1970s and ’80s and for his handlebar mustache. Pitching in the 1970s and ’80s, he earned $6 million playing ball, plus money from endorsements. He tried to diversify, but investments in a pistachio farm, Arabian horses and wind turbines didn’t pan out. His 1992 bankruptcy petition stated that Fingers had $50,000 in assets. He was able pay back his debts, including for taxes, by 2007.

John Arne Riis.4. John Arne Riis, soccer:
$20 million (or more) lost

The soccer star, who made his fortune with several football clubs, notably Liverpool, apparently was the victim of financial fraud. Earning as much as $75,000 per week, Riis, whose career begain in 1996 and who currently plays for Fulham, has been fighting with his advisors and agent. A court found a possible link to a fraud case in Norway.

Mushin Muhammad with the Carolina Panthers in 2004. (Photo: AP)3. Mushin Muhammad, football:
$20 million lost

Reliable on the field as a receiver for the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears from 1996 to 2009, Mushin Muhammad ran into trouble off the gridiron when his company, Baylo Entertainment, was sued for $25,000 in past-due credit-card charges. The company, a record label, went bankrupt and Muhammad was forced to sell his huge lakeside home and other assets.

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., in 2007. (Photo: AP)2. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, tennis:
Nearly $60 million lost

During her 17-year career on the tennis court, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario earned $17 million. Add to that more than $40 million from endorsements and you might assume that the proud daughter of Spain would be living a life of luxury. But in 2012, a decade after she retired, she revealed in her memoir that all that money was gone. In fact, she said she was in debt because of unpaid taxes. Where did it all go? The former top-ranked singles and doubles player says her parents burned through it. Her mother, Marisa, denies the claim. Whatever the truth, it seems a fortune has vanished.

Antoine Walker playing for the Miami Heat in 2007. (Photo: AP)1. Antoine Walker, basketball:
$110 million lost

Antoine Walker had it good, real good. He was a first round pick for the Boston Celtics in 1996, a three-time All-Star and an NBA champion with the Miami Heat. And he was paid well, very well, to the tune of $110 million over his 12-year career. Alas, it all slipped away.

Walker, who, refreshingly, blames himself, says most of that cash was lost because of leveraged real-estate investments that went bust in 2007 and 2008 just as his career was ending. The banks demanded loan payments and thus was an empire decimated. He filed for bankruptcy in 2010, with total assets of $4.3 million and debts of $12.7 million. Walker also told an ESPN interviewer that some of his cash was used to pay for a lavish lifestyle. 


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