Financial Failings of NBA Legend Antoine Walker

Antoine Walker

Former NBA All-Star forward Antoine Walker possessed a varied skill-set that enabled him to play both inside and outside. A big man who also shot the three, Walker was notorious for his hilariously erratic shot selection and, later in his career, an aversion to running that led to lazy play.

The quality of financial advice Walker received throughout his career was evidently very close to the quality of his shot attempts, as he filed for bankruptcy in 2010, two years after he retired from the game. In a recent column in the Players’ Tribune, Walker writes a letter to his younger self detailing what went wrong and what he could have done better.

Surprisingly, there are a few money management lessons that anyone—NBA star or not—can apply. (For related reading, see: Do You Need to Change Your Financial Advisor?)

Actively Screen Advisors
Screen advisors before you hire them, and after you do, make sure you know where your money is going. Walker frames his letter with the importance and difficulty of saying “no,” whether to friends asking for money or, most crucially, a friend of a friend who asked for money to start a real estate venture.

The advisor, who Walker met at a dinner with NBA colleagues, started Walker Ventures with bank loans guaranteed by Walker’s personal portfolio, an incredibly risky move. Walker let the advisor have complete control of managing the properties since he was playing basketball nine months of the year. Ultimately, Walker Ventures was forced to close after the housing crash with $20 million of debt. The advisor went to jail, and Walker was forced to file for bankruptcy.

There were a couple ways this could have been prevented. First, Walker didn’t do much due diligence before making the deal. He could have run it by another advisor, who probably would have told him it was structured as an extremely risky venture. Second, because of his schedule, Walker did not adequately check up on the investments.

Many people, particularly young investors, share Walker’s desire to make some money outside of their main job, especially to save for retirement. Finding a financial advisor who is trustworthy, and right for your unique needs, is very important. (For related reading, see: 6 Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor.)

The Upside of Having Someone Say No
Walker’s trouble with the real estate venture was compounded by his reckless spending. While he confesses that he spent lavishly on himself, including a $350,000 Maybach car, it appears that what took the biggest bite out of Walker’s wallet was his spending on family and friends. “I gave them whatever they wanted and spoiled them. You can’t do that,” Walker said in a CNN/Money interview. “It ended up being an open ATM throughout my career.”

While most of us don’t take our friends to a Gucci store and let them buy whatever they want—as Walker has said he did—spending without at least an idea of what is manageable is a problem many people encounter. For young professionals in particular, overspending can seriously hinder retirement saving.

A good financial advisor will do more than simply invest your money. They will incorporate periodic spending goals, major expenditures like vacations, and life events like a new home or wedding into your comprehensive financial plan. Sometimes, this could mean advising against a big purchase for the sake of a long-term goal.

Obviously, we don’t all have $110 million to blow like Antoine Walker. But lackadaisical spending control and being too busy to check on our investments or advisors are traps anyone could fall into. Ensuring that your money is in the right hands is a universally important objective. (For related reading, see: Which Investor Personality Best Describes You?)

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