Monday, July 2, 2012

Broke Athletes

The average career of an NFL players is 3.5 years, in those years the average salary per season is $1.1 million. The average salary of an NBA player in 2012 was about $5 million. The average career length in the NBA is about 4.8 seasons. The MLB has the highest average career length at 5.6 seasons with an average salary of a little under $3.5 million. As for the NHL, the average salary is $2.4 million with an average career lasting 5.5 seasons. When reading these numbers, it is important to understand the word average. The average is skewed because the highest paid players in all leagues make considerably more than the lowest paid players. The income disparity that I previously wrote about gives a better understanding of what the minimum players can make. Even the players being paid the minimum salary, is a dream salary for most Americans.

The Problem

VERY Sad...
Salaries made by professional athletes in the big four sports would seem to most as substantial enough for living..... at a minimum. If athletes are getting paid enough, then why is it that I need to constantly read stories of athletes being broke? Nothing bothers me more than when I see stories of former professional athletes begging to play again or selling off precious memorabilia to stay afloat. Short term reasons for players becoming broke include poor play and injury. Players who make the minimum and only last a short time in their respective sport, whether due to poor play or injury, will not make enough money to last a lifetime. Many professional athletes forgo a college education or a chance to become skilled in something to make the dream of being a professional athlete a reality. It is difficult to fault players who make this decision, but unfortunately many of them end up broke because of the choices they made. On the flip side there are stories of successful professional athletes who end up broke. The reason for successful athletes ending up broke usually include poor financial management. One of many examples is a former NBA great, Allen Iverson. Iverson was (in my biased opinion) the most fearless and toughest pound-for-pound player in the history of the NBA. Including endorsements, Allen made over $200 million dollars while in the NBA. Although Iverson's pride would never allow him to admit his financial troubles, they are quite evident. Iverson went oversees to play basketball in Turkey, was offered a contract to play indoor soccer for the Rochester Lancers and is currently trying to get back in the NBA. Unfortunately, Iverson is one of many professional athletes to become broke after retiring. In fact within five years after retiring, 78% of NFL players and 60% of NBA players file for bankruptcy.

The Solution

The solution to the problem of broke athletes is not simple. Players who are broke due to a short career have only one option. That option is to become skilled in something else besides their sport. The solution for successful players becoming broke is more complicated. One solution is for players to have better control of their money (stop spending so much). This is easy for the average person to say, but many athletes have little money growing up and it is difficult to resist the temptations once acquiring such copious amounts of money. Another solution is to better train the players on how to use their money. The leagues currently have programs, often mandatory, in financial management. These could possibly be better utilized. Unfortunately the real solution for all broke athletes is personal choice, there is little that any outsider can do to fix that.

Final Thought

When I see a former athlete selling his championship ring to make enough money to pay the bills, I can't stand it. It would be much easier to see players save their money and live comfortably after retirement. The issue is, that it's their money. No person should have the right to tell athletes how to spend or save their money. Hopefully stories of broke athletes will help change the culture for current athletes, unfortunately this does not seem likely.


Statistics from,,,,


  1. I've heard Andrew Brandt speak a couple of times about the financial mismanagement of professional athletes. He said that one of the toughest things he dealt with as an agent was trying to convince players to take their money spread out over the entire year instead of bigger sums during the season. This practice helps athletes learn a little bit of year by year fiscal management.

    Also, those numbers about filing for bankruptcy are staggering. I didn't realize that it was that high! Incredible.

    Great post D-Ro. Lots of great insight and research.

    1. Thanks Kev. Yeah those bankruptcy numbers were crazy to me. I had to check a few sources because I did not believe that was possible..... real sad.

  2. Yeah it's crazy to think about having seven-figure bank accounts and blowing it all, and it happens way too often. It's difficult because as a young person it's weird to go from nothing to everything in a short time.

    One of two things usually happen in this instance... These young people, understandably, don't want other people to handle their money, but they screw it up themselves. Or they allow other people, such as friends or family members, to handle the money, and they blow it or mismanage it drastically.

    Just insane, but forever has been, and will be, a problem with professional athletes.