It’s sad that going broke is the rule, not the exception for former NFL players. Sports Illustrated reported in 2009 that 78% of them go bankrupt or fall into financial distress between retirement and two years out. The topic was also covered in depth on “Broke,” ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. For some, it’s due to joblessness or divorce or child support payments, others, a cavalcade of children from different mothers. Many are just totally reckless spenders. But just buying too many luxury cars is commonplace, so with this rundown, we’re going to tip a cap to the Fun While It Lasted Hall of Fame -- athletes from across the sports world who acquired some crazy, awesome things … before losing it all.
Warren Sapp: 240 Pairs of Nikes
NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp had a knack for devouring quarterbacks and double teams during his playing days. Recent court documents pertaining to his bankruptcy filing reveal that Sapp had a thing for Nike shoes, too. Sapp didn’t have a Jarrett Jack calibre sneaker collection -- 1,500 pairs -- but 240 glorious Nike kicks, good for about one-and-a-half days of wear a year, is nothing to sneeze at. Alas, a Connecticut man bought a collection of 213 of them for $6,390 at the bankruptcy auction. Sapp was forced to downsize to 27 shoes, and probably still has some spikes if he ever needs to suit up in a “play with a pro” game for some extra cheddar.
Lawrence Taylor: Hookers...for players on opposing teams
We’re not so callous to suggest that LT’s prostitute expenditures amounted to “doing it best,” nor his roughly $1,000 a day cocaine habit during parts of his career. That said, the portion of LT’s budget (ha) tabbed for sending pros to other teams’ running backs was a pretty amusing hobby. "You know what they like, and what type of women they like, and you just call the service," Taylor recalled about his gag. Advanced NFL Stats has yet to calculate how many extra tackles the linebacker recorded thanks to this advantage-seeking expense.
Mike Tyson: White Tigers
Iron Mike didn’t lack creative ways to plow through his multi-million career earnings. Here, we focus on Tyson’s purchase of two $70,000 white Bengal tigers that he housed with an African lion in a custom made habitat in his backyard (also very expensive). It must have been awesome to wake up in the morning, pour a bowl of cereal, and marvel at a pair of white tigers parading around the backyard. On the bright side, for financial purposes, Tyson’s tiger affinity helped him secure a lucrative cameo in The Hangover trilogy.
Rollie Fingers: Pistachio farms
Who the heck would want a pistachio farm?! Yeah, Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, who invested thousands in the Rolls Royce of delicacy nuts. Whether truly an investment or in satisfaction of a desire to have roaming fields with delicious pistachios, the venture went kaput and Fingers was forced to file for bankruptcy only a few years after his playing career ended. These days, he’ll have to settle for Planters or Wonderful Pistachios like the rest of us.
Latrell Sprewell: 70-foot luxury yacht
When Latrell Sprewell played in Milwaukee, he decided he needed a boat to properly enjoy Lake Michigan, adjacent to the city. A simple 20-footer wouldn’t suffice, of course, and Spree went even bigger than the 63-foot vessel used by the Minnesota Vikings during the infamous Love Boat scandal. The enigmatic forward took a loan on a $1.5 million, 70-foot Azimut-Benetti yacht, and dubbed it "Milwaukee's Best," which shares it named with with the lovably crappy beer I drank in college. The beast eventually sold at a bankruptcy auction in 2008 for $856,000 to a man from Milwaukee.
Scottie Pippen: Gulfstream II corporate jet
Speaking of former NBA stars who like to travel in style: ‘Pip made his share of foolish business deals; he also slapped down $4.3 million for Gulfstream II corporate jet in 2002, perhaps to impress potential partners. It would have been fantastic if Scottie actually got to use the thing, but Pippen and his “advisors” failed to inspect the jet, missing a damaged engine that would require $1 million in repairs, and so the jet became grounded. Having an inoperable jet is not quite as cool as flying one. Pippen later successfully recovered $2 million in a settlement with his attorney who screwed up the purchase and inspection.
Evander Holyfield: 54,000 Square Feet Home
The Real Deal attended the MC-Hammer school of buying-a-gigantic-home financial recklessness. Holyfield bought a palace in Georgia that had 109 rooms, two bowling alleys and a theater. 109 rooms!!! In addition to housing most of a traveling circus, that had to be good for at least 7 game rooms and a bird sanctuary with parrots performing Michael Jackson hits. Unfortunately the place cost about $1 million a year to maintain, including $155,000 in annual taxes. Holyfield was eventually forced to sell the place for $7.5 million when it was foreclosed upon.
Lenny Dykstra: Wayne Gretzky’s massive estate
“Nails” proved to be a swindler and a fraud later charged with three counts of grand theft auto and filing a false financial report. When Dykstra still had some cash and a credit line, he made some pretty exciting purchases, notably Wayne Gretzky’s $17 million, 13,000 square foot estate in Thousand Oaks, California. Unfortunately, he bought it before the housing crash and was unable to flip it for a $7 million profit as he had hoped. We hope Nails at least got to play a few games of street hockey with The Great One.
Jamal Lewis: Indoor water park
In 2010, a year after his playing career ended, the running back bought a 50% stake in the largest indoor water park resort and conference center in Central Ohio, the Fort Rapids Waterpark Resort. By the looks of a YouTube video, the place looks pretty damn awesome: it’s got the Cowboy Creek, the Black Out Pass, a ton of slides and a 30-person hot tub. Although Lewis’s financials forced him to file bankruptcy, the Cowboy Creek is still up and running just fine.
Next: Lotto Winners Who Lost It All
Curt Schilling: Video game company
Though many 20 and 30-something guys would be thrilled to just continue playing Madden, FIFA, Grand Theft Auto, or Call of Duty for the rest of their lives, Schilling went a step further, and founded his own video game company. In the process, he dropped about $50 million of his personal fortune into 38 Studios, which he had hoped would rival EA Sports and other gaming giants. It failed miserably due to mismanagement and unrealistic expectations, among other things. Would have been nice, but Schilling probably should have put at least a couple dozen million into mutual funds, tempered the zealousness, and just used a throwback version of himself in MLB 13: The Show.