Wouldn't your life be easier if you were a millionaire or a multi-millionaire? Maybe not. It hasn't worked for some of the most highly-paid professional athletes in recent history.
Some partied too hard. Some had big hearts for their friends and families. Most had little to no experience managing large sums of money. These and more challenges caused havoc in the personal and professional lives of athletes.
Bankruptcy, substance abuse, and domestic violence have become such common issues for current and former pro football players that the NFL has made it a requirement for all rookies to attend a four-day symposium each year. Along with orientation, the players get lectures on professional responsibility, personal finance, substance abuse, community engagement, and other off-the-field challenges that they will encounter.
The inability of professional athletes to manage their finances responsibly is a serious concern for the NFL. In an ESPN documentary called Broke, it was estimated that 78% of NFL players are out of money in less than two years after leaving the game.
Let's take a look at some of the accomplishments, spending habits, debts, and results of some well-known professional athletes in three different sports.
Vince Young (NFL)
After winning the Rose Bowl MVP award twice, Vince Young was one of the most highly anticipated picks going into the 2006 NFL draft. He was selected as the third overall pick by the Tennessee Titans and signed a $58 million contract. He played six years in the NFL for three different teams.
During his playing years, he was known for indulging in $600 shots of cognac at Morton's after home games. He spent $5,000 per week at the Cheesecake Factory, and once purchased 120 out of 130 seats on a commercial airline flight.
Vince claims to have been ripped off by his agent and financial advisor. He was unsigned, running out of money, and looking for work soon after his release by the Buffalo Bills in 2012.
There was at least one financial success: Young opened the Vince Young Steakhouse in Austin, Texas, and it's still open today. However, the restaurant is now owned by a local husband-and-wife team. Young filed for bankruptcy in late 2016.
John Daly (PGA)
John Daly is a California-born golfer who joined the PGA Tour in 1987. He's known for his long drives from the tee, his careless attitude, and a rocky personal life. He's the only golfer to win two major championships and never be invited to play in the Ryder Cup.
Daly's career earnings exceeded $9 million. But according to his autobiography, John Daly: My Life in and out of the Rough, he's lost somewhere between $50 million and $60 million gambling. After winning $750,000 at a San Francisco golf tournament in 2005, he immediately went to Las Vegas and lost over $1.5 million playing $5,000 slot machines.
He also claims he drank a fifth of Jack Daniels each day when he was 23 and on the PGA Tour. John battled his alcohol problem until 2008 when he made a commitment to stop drinking.
Married four times, Daly says he now only plays the $50 or $100 slot machines.
Dennis Rodman (NBA)
He's one of the most notorious basketball players to ever wear an NBA uniform. Dennis the Menace was known for his colorful hair and tattoos, his fierce rebounding and defense, and his habit of wearing a dress off the court.
He played on the five-time NBA Champion Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. He was a seven-time rebounding champion.
By the time he retired from the NBA in 2011, his career earnings were estimated at about $27 million, not counting sponsorships and personal appearances. A year later, he was rumored to be flat broke.
Married and divorced three times, Rodman fell behind on his child support payments to the tune of $800,000. He spent millions of dollars on a heavy metal record collection that took up two-thirds of the space in his $8.7-million Malibu estate. It's said that he would consider selling one or both kidneys to avoid selling his collection.
Rodman has since tried for second careers in reality television and pro wrestling. But he is perhaps best known today for his oddball friendship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
The Bottom Line
Former NFL star Warren Sapp said that some of the best off-the-field advice he ever got was from former coach Tony Dungy. These were Dungy's five points, in Warren's words:
- Don't stay out past 1 a.m.
- Don't go more than 15 mph over the speed limit
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Weapons will get you in trouble
- Be cautious of women you know too well or not well enough
Sapp attended the 2012 rookie symposium to share these thoughts with the incoming rookie class. "When the arrest does come, you can be sure three out of these five will come with it," he told them.