Allen Iverson Retires With Little Fanfare and Even Less Money

Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson retired this past week. Now that’s no big deal in itself as he hasn’t played for an NBA team in four years, bouncing around some leagues overseas. But the interesting thing about his retirement is that the 38-year-old is reportedly broke. This is a man who earned more than US$200 million (NZ$242m) in playing contracts over the course of his career, a figure that doesn’t count any endorsements or income off the court.

But he is now flat broke. It’s staggering, but in America it doesn’t raise many eyebrows because, sadly, it’s all too common.

Seventy-eight per cent of footballers are bankrupt within five years of retiring from the NFL. For basketball it’s not quite as bad with 60 per cent broke within five years (take note groupies) and although baseball players are the best off of the bunch, they still go broke at four times the national average.

While you can’t protect people from their own stupidity (as they say a fool and his money are soon parted) they can certainly be better prepared for the pitfalls that come with stardom and enormous sums of money.

The statistics are an indictment on American universities, which are rightly regarded as among the world’s best. Students come from all over the globe to attend these institutions but they are clearly failing many of the athletes who attend them on scholarships. Almost every player in America’s three main sports – football, basketball and baseball – go to college as it’s the pathway into the pros. Iverson, for example, attended the prestigious Georgetown University for two years. Clearly he didn’t learn much, if anything, in that time other than how to score on the basketball court.

In the argument over college athletes and whether they should be paid, the negative side always takes the position that they are effectively being paid in the form of a free college education. The terrible bankruptcy statistics show exactly how little that is worth to many of these athletes. Often, athletes are encouraged to take ‘easy’ majors and encouraged to place their athletic performance for above academics.  Far from teaching them how to make money once their athletic career is over, they’re not even teaching them how to hold on to the money they’ve already got.

The reasons behind the bankruptcies are pretty simple. Overspending and poor investments. Iverson’s poor investments included a lot of logged casino time. Many try to live up to  ‘baller’ expectations that the media and their peers establishes, failing to realize how short their time in the sun will be. The average career span in the NBA, MLB and NFL is 4.8, 5.6 and 3.5 years respectively.

Part of it is cultural too. Black athletes are expected to help support their extended family who helped raise them. Charles Barkley said he had to learn to say no to friends and family because the demands never stopped, no matter how much money he handed over. And then there’s the money spent on groupies, and child support and expensive habits (Lamar Odom). It all adds up.


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