As an NBA all-star forward earning mega-bucks, Antoine Walker refused to heed his financial advisor’s warnings: The young player’s lavish spending habits would lead to a grim outcome when his basketball career ended.
Sure enough: Two years after he left the League in 2008, deeply in debt as a result of a spectacularly bad real estate investment, Walker filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as he tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
Now the former champ, who during 12 seasons played for the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and the Kentucky Wildcats, making about $108 million, declares: “A financial advisor can be, like, your best friend.”
For the last six years, Walker, 42, an analyst on Fox Sports Network and ESPN’s SEC Network (Southeastern Conference channel), has, on the side, been teaching financial literacy to NBA and NFL athletes and potential pro stars.
His initial effort in the role was as a consultant to Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports and Entertainment Division. Now he’s a consultant with the newly launched Edyoucore Sports & Entertainment, founded by Drew Hawkins, a former Morgan Stanley complex manager who created and ran its S&E unit. He left the firm in 2017.
The 6-foot, 9-inch Walker was drafted by the Celtics at age 19. From modest means, he knew zero about managing money. Hence, the suddenly rich player indulged in over-the-top spending: a $400,000 car, a slew of pricey jewelry, multiple homes — and more. Then, too, there was what turned out to be that crushing real estate investment.
In cautioning young athletes about avoiding financial pitfalls, Walker teaches basics about saving, credit and generational wealth, plus to be wary about whom to trust when it comes to business ventures.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed the Chicago-based Walker — who contributes to ESPN radio’s “The Locker Room” and hosts the podcast “SouthSide Heat” — on the phone from Charlotte during the June NBA draft.
THINKADVISOR: Why do you teach financial literacy to young pro athletes and potential sports stars?
ANTOINE WALKER: I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I made. I tell them about my trials and tribulations so they’ll think twice about what they’re going to do with their money.
Why do they need such guidance?
Most players come from humble beginnings, like I did. So you don’t think a lot about money growing up. But all of sudden you get hit with a lot of money and don’t know what to do with it. You don’t understand taxes and about purchasing things or about stocks and bonds.
What’s the biggest financial pitfall?
Trusting other people with your money. I’m talking about business ventures, whether it’s a restaurant, a club, a bar. This is where you hear a lot of horror stories about guys getting beat out of their money. It’s trusting other people to run these [businesses] for you and not waiting till your career is over when you can be hands-on.
Any other big perils to beware of?
Aggressive spending on things you don’t really need or that don’t hold value. A lot of guys, for example, buy jewelry. If it cost 20 grand, is it worth 20 grand, or is it only worth eight grand?
What did you do with your money when you were playing ball?
I had some aggressive spending habits and lived a very expensive lifestyle. I had some fetishes, like, I had a lot of cars, including a [Mercedes] Maybach that cost $400,000. That was a bad investment. I had three homes. I had a lot of nice jewelry — till I got robbed at gunpoint in 2007.
Did you have a financial advisor when you were in the NBA?
Yes, but [back then] you don’t know who’s good or who’s bad [when choosing one].
To what extent should a rookie athlete depend on a financial advisor?
He can become, like, your best friend, to a certain degree. A financial advisor should be somebody that’s going to show you how to invest in the stock market and make sure you preserve your money down the line. A financial advisor should be the guy that takes you on a financial journey so you’ll be set for the rest of your life.
In view of the money difficulties that you suffered, it sounds like your advisor didn’t help you much.
I wouldn’t say that he didn’t help me — I was the one who was handling the money. I didn’t think about life after basketball. There’s a disconnect between you and the financial advisor because he’s trying to put you in a position where you can have money for the rest of your life, but the player that’s earning it is doing a lot of unnecessary spending.
What’s the main reason for that?
You’re a little stubborn in the way you want to spend your money. You’re young and playing ball — things are going great, and you’re just living in the moment.
Did your advisor invest any of your money in stocks and bonds?
I did some stock market investments. But my biggest mistake was being in the real estate game. That was the thing that took me under.
Who put you in real estate?
A friend in Chicago created a real estate company, and I became a part of it. The first three years were great: We were buying a bunch of properties. But the guy mismanaged the company and didn’t tell me about a lot of things that were going on. We got caught in the [real estate crash] of 2007-2008 and borrowed a lot of money through banks. I was the personal guarantor, which was the biggest no-no.