In May of last year, CNBC reported that an estimated 60 percent of former NBA players go broke within five years of departing the league. And they reported 78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or under financial stress just two years after retirement.
Poverty and homelessness
are strongly correlated.
After playing in Super Bowl XIV, Jackie Wallace was let go by the Rams and never played pro again. Within 10 years he was homeless, living under a bridge in New Orleans.
Many people like to elevate professional athletes for their extraordinary physical prowess and personal achievements. In reality, they are only human and struggle from the same problems everyone else does. Too many athletes reach the top, before seeing it all fall apart.
This is the case with two former NBA stars, Oliver Miller and Vin Baker. They each have strong connections to the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks, the two teams meeting in this year’s Eastern Conference finals. Miller, had his best season as a Raptor, and Baker started his career with the Bucks.
Despite making millions during their careers, their post-basketball lives have proven to be difficult.
Known affectionately as ‘The Big O,’ Miller was a mammoth of a player, who was drafted in the first-round by the Phoenix Suns and played a total of nine seasons in the NBA. In 1995-96, he put up career-best numbers with the Raptors. But, instead of building on that success, it proved to be his peak.
Soon after, he started to struggle with his weight. Miller began his career at 270lbs but quickly grew to well over 300. Miller was traded and would eventually play in Greece, Poland, China and lower leagues back in North America. Miller earned a fraction of what he made in the NBA, just to support himself. He called 'time' on his career in 2010. In 2011, Miller had trouble with the law that resulted in prison and probation.
Miller eventually moved to Arizona to work as a car salesman. He has learned to control his weight and looks to be in the best physical shape for a long time, but it’s still a long way from the top.
Baker played in four consecutive All-Star games, won an Olympic Gold Medal, and finished his career in 2006 with very impressive 15 points and seven rebounds per game average. In 2015, he was managing a coffee shop in Connecticut.
How did he get there? Like Miller, Baker struggled with his weight and his game declined as a result. He also suffered from alcoholism. He reportedly lost over $100 million due to bad investments and his house was eventually foreclosed.
There is good news in Baker’s case. After leaving the coffee shop, he took a job as an anchor at Fox Sports Wisconsin, offering his insight on Milwaukee Bucks broadcasts. He also returned to basketball, on the sidelines. Currently, he is on the Bucks’ coaching staff.