20 World-Famous Athletes Who Went Bankrupt

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Of course, some of the world’s top-paid athletes are very sensible with their earnings and end up living happily ever after following their retirements. But all too many seem to have a terrible weakness when it comes to dealing with the huge amounts of money they make during their careers. Read on to learn about 20 sports stars who failed to hang on to their fabulous wealth.

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20. Mike Tyson

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Far and away the outstanding heavyweight boxer of his generation, Mike Tyson was the youngest fighter ever to earn a world heavyweight champion’s belt when he took one in 1985, aged just 20. But after Tyson was defeated by Buster Douglas in the ring in 1990, it’s probably fair to say that he was finally beaten by his own demons as well. His attempt at a comeback was interrupted by his 1992 conviction for rape and a six-year jail sentence. And despite earning some $300 million during his career, he was bankrupted in 2003 with alleged debts of $23 million.

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19. Evander Holyfield

In 1996 Evander Holyfield took the world heavyweight title from Mike Tyson, who’d regained it after his time in prison. In the rematch, Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s right ear and was disqualified. And as world heavyweight champion, Holyfield went on to exceed Muhammad Ali’s record of winning the title on three separate occasions. Outside the ring, however, Holyfield was seemingly no better with money than Tyson. In spite of earning some $230 million, he ended up “flat broke and bankrupt” with debts of more than $10 million, according to a 2012 report by The Independent.

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18. Vince Young

Despite an early setback in his life, when a near-fatal traffic accident left him in hospital for weeks, Vince Young went on to play football with the University of Texas. Then, after his highly successful college run, the quarterback joined the Tennessee Titans in 2006 on a six-year deal reportedly worth up to $58 million. Young also had one season at the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 before a series of misfiring contracts with several teams. However, although the NFL star earned around $64 million during his career, non-repayment of a $1.9 million payday loan triggered his bankruptcy filing in 2014.

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17. Kenny Anderson

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Kenny Anderson was already being recognized as a future basketball star at just 14 years of age. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, he made it to the NBA, starting his professional career with the New York Nets in 1991. He played for several other teams during his time in the franchise, too – including the Portland Trailblazers, the Boston Celtics and the Seattle Supersonics – before finally retiring after the 2005-06 season. Yet while Anderson’s playing days had netted him earnings of around $63 million, he filed for bankruptcy in 2005. A decade later, he told Forbes, “I had great attorneys that advised me well throughout my career, but I never listened.”

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16. Curt Schilling

Born in 1966, Curt Schilling started his career in 1988 with the Elmira Pioneers – a minor-league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox at the time. He then broke into the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles, while his success continued with spells at the Phillies, the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox. Finally, after 20 seasons as a pitcher, Schilling retired in 2009 and set up video game company 38 Studios. It was this business that got him into financial trouble, though. Schilling’s 2012 bankruptcy filing revealed that Studio 38 had assets of just over $20 million; this figure was dwarfed, however, by debts in excess of $150 million.

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15. Lenny Dykstra

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In 1981 Leonard Kyle Dykstra was signed by the New York Mets as a minor leaguer, after which he graduated to major-league play in 1985. Then the center fielder was traded to the Phillies in 1989; trouble would come two years later, however, when a drunken traffic accident caused him various injuries that dogged him until his 1996 retirement. After leaving the game, Dykstra subsequently embarked on a business career and by 2008 was reckoned to be worth around $60 million. Then in 2009 he filed for bankruptcy, with assets of $50,000 and debts of up to $50 million. Two years on, he faced 13 charges in the federal bankruptcy court and was ultimately sentenced to six months in prison and hundreds of hours of community service.

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14. Michael Vick

Michael Vick played NFL football for more than a decade, signing with his first pro team, the Atlanta Falcons, in 2001. After six years in Atlanta, however, his career abruptly stopped when he was sentenced to jail time for participating in a dog-fighting operation. But Vick was able to pick up where he left off following his release from prison thanks to a comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles – for whom he played for half a decade. Then, after spells with a couple of other teams, Vick retired in 2017. The quarterback was a high earner, too: at the peak of his career in 2006, his yearly takings stood at $25 million. But in 2008, with his finances depleted by a combination of ill-advised investment decisions, profligate spending and legal problems, Vick filed for bankruptcy.

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13. Dorothy Hamill

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Figure skater Dorothy Hamill is arguably best known for winning a gold medal at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria; she also earned a world championship title that same year. Born in Chicago in 1956, she began skating when she was just eight years old. And the pursuit led Hamill onto great things, as she took the U.S. Championship title in 1974 before going on to Olympic glory. Then, after her triumph at the Games, she became the star turn with touring entertainment company Ice Capades. Ice Capades collapsed in 1993, however, after which Hamill and her husband bought the firm in the belief that they could turn its fortunes around. But the task proved too much, and the couple filed for bankruptcy in 1994.

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12. Boris Becker

Boris Becker’s major tennis success started when he was just 17. Playing at Wimbledon as an unseeded competitor in 1985, the German won the tournament in his first Grand Slam victory. And, during his career, Becker went on to emerge victorious twice more at Wimbledon. He was seen as a temperamental player, however, and prone to fits of anger on court. Then, after putting down his racket in 1999, Becker tried his hand at a variety of business enterprises. In 2017 the U.K. Bankruptcy and Companies Court declared him bankrupt, though, for failing to settle a debt with a private bank. Somewhat outlandishly, Becker tried to avoid the order by claiming that he was a Central African Republic diplomat with diplomatic immunity.

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11. Jesse Owens

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Born the youngest of ten children in Oakville, Alabama, in 1913, Jesse Owens shot to worldwide fame in the 1936 Olympics in the German capital of Berlin. Adolf Hitler was ruler of Germany at the time and saw the games as an opportunity to promote his racist ideology. But African-American Owens won four gold medals, including those for the 100-meter sprint and the long jump. As for Hitler’s response to those feats? Well, the dictator was said to have reacted by claiming that people of African descent should be barred from future Olympics. Following his track triumphs, Owen returned to the U.S., where he faced racism and a life of dead-end jobs. He subsequently filed for bankruptcy in 1939 – a mere three years after he had become an international hero.

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10. Jack Clark

Born in 1955, Jack Clark started his baseball career with minor-league team the Great Falls Giants. A move to the major league came in 1975, though, when he joined the San Francisco Giants, where he would stay for nine years. After that spell, he transferred to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he hit an impressive 35 home runs during the 1987 season. Clark played for various other teams, too, ending his 18-year career in 1993 having hit a total of 340 home runs. Still, even though the MLB star earned an estimated $15 million during his time as a player, he filed for bankruptcy in 1992 thanks to apparently overspending on high-performance cars. In March 2018 Clark was forced into bankruptcy yet again with debts of $550,000.

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9. Rick Mahorn

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Born in 1958, Rick Mahorn played his highly successful college basketball at Hampton University. Mahorn was then drafted to the Washington Bullets, although it was with the Detroit Pistons that he enjoyed the peak years of his career. In 1989 he even played an important part in the Pistons’ victory in the NBA championship. After that, Mahorn had spells with the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Nets as well as a season in Italy. He was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2010, however, after being hamstrung by bad investments and while owing $200,000 in taxes.

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8. Denny McLain

Denny McLain was born in Markham, Illinois, in 1944 and started out in professional baseball with the Appalachian League’s Harlan Smokies, where he was an instant success as a pitcher. Then, at only 19 years old, he entered the major league with the Detroit Tigers. And McLain’s successful and lucrative career continued until he was embroiled in a betting scandal in 1970. After a three-month suspension, he duly returned to baseball – only to be reprimanded again for throwing water over sportswriters and taking a gun on a team flight. But although he’d been the first baseball player to have annual earnings of $100,000, McClain was forced into bankruptcy in 1970.

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7. Mark Brunell

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Mark Brunell’s stellar career as a quarterback began at St. Joseph High School Knights of Orcutt, California, in 1985. College football followed at the University of Washington, after which he started as a pro with the Green Bay Packers. Yet while Brunell only played for the Packers twice in his two seasons there, his stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars proved much more successful, and further triumphs came with the Washington Redskins. Then in 2012 Brunell ended his career after a couple of years at the New York Jets. Bankruptcy had previously come for the star in 2010, though, precipitated by poor investments and real-estate deals that went wrong. Reports said that Brunell had debts of $25 million; his assets, on the other hand, totaled less than $6 million.

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6. Johnny Unitas

Johnny Unitas started his football career at Pittsburgh’s St. Justin’s High School. The man eventually known as “The Golden Arm” then played college football with the Louisville Cardinals, although he perhaps surprisingly failed at first to earn a place on a pro team. Still, Unitas was later taken on by the Baltimore Colts in 1956 and achieved great success as a quarterback with the team. He subsequently moved on to the San Diego Chargers in 1973, after which he retired a year later. In 1991, though, Unitas filed for bankruptcy, with his debts outweighing his assets by more than two to one.

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5. Antoine Walker

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Antoine Walker started playing basketball at Chicago’s Mount Carmel High School before winning a scholarship to the University of Kentucky. The NBA beckoned after that, with Walker signing to the Boston Celtics in 1996. The power forward also enjoyed spells with the Dallas Mavericks, the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat and a further stint with the Celtics before eventually retiring in 2012. However, Walker has had problems with the law, including passing bad checks related to $800,000 of gambling debts in 2009. More bad-check charges followed, with bankruptcy ultimately following in 2010; Walker was said to have assets of $4.3 million but liabilities of more than $12 million.

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4. Darren McCarty

Canadian ice hockey player Darren McCarty was born in 1972 and grew up in Leamington, Ontario, playing there for minor teams. His break into the big time came with the Detroit Red Wings, where he stayed for 11 seasons. And McCarty saw success with the team, too, winning the Stanley Cup three times in six years. He then joined the Calgary Flames and had a further spell with the Red Wings before retiring in 2009. Four years prior to leaving the game, though, McCarty had been declared bankrupt in the U.S. He was burdened by liabilities of $6.2 million, including a total of $185,000 owed to three casinos.

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3. Rulon Gardner

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Born in Afton, Wyoming, in 1971, Rulon Gardner has claimed that his exceptional strength was a result of the hard labor he performed during his upbringing on a dairy farm. And while he excelled in athletics, football and wrestling at school, it was in the latter pursuit that his future lay. His moment came in 2000 at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. In the Greco-Roman wrestling final, he was pitted against Aleksandr Karelin, who hadn’t lost a bout for over a decade. Gardner beat him to win gold, however. He also went on to take the bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics and subsequently tried his hand at business. But in 2012 Gardner filed for bankruptcy while claiming that he’d been a victim of fraud. Then, two years later, he sold his Olympic memorabilia to help pay debts of almost $4 million.

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2. Chris Eubank

British boxer Chris Eubank was born in 1966 in Dulwich in South London, although he later moved across the Atlantic and lived for a time in New York City’s South Bronx. Eubank trained there at the Jerome Boxing Club and continued with his boxing when he returned to England. He fought his first pro bout in 1985, eventually clawing his way to the WBO middleweight belt in 1990. That wouldn’t be all, though, as he also took a world super-middleweight title in 1991. And Eubank’s rivalry in the ring with fellow British boxer Nigel Benn became the stuff of legend, with one of their fights said to have attracted a TV audience of half a billion. Eubank retired in 1998, though, and he became bankrupt just over a decade later with an unpaid tax bill of around $1.7 million.

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1. Lawrence Taylor

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After playing college football at the University of North Carolina, Lawrence Taylor joined the New York Giants in 1981. In 1986 he would scoop the prestigious title of Most Valuable Player, too, following an outstanding season. Unfortunately, Taylor’s success on the field was all too often overshadowed by aspects of his personal life – including suspensions on multiple occasions for recreational drug use. And after his 1993 retirement, his substance abuse worsened, with the former linebacker ending up in jail on three occasions. Taylor filed for bankruptcy in 1998, with outstanding mortgage payments and other debts of some $350,000.

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