NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It was truly a rags-to-riches story. As a 19-year-old rookie with the Boston Celtics, Antoine Walker was one of the highest paid athletes under the age of 20. He signed a three-year $5.5 million contract and eventually during his 12 year career, earned $110 million.
And one day, it was all gone and Walker was forced into bankruptcy losing millions of dollars in the process.
On Thursday, the former University of Kentucky and NBA All-Star visited Tennessee State University to share his story of financial mistakes over the years in hopes of helping students.
“I’m telling students what I wish I had known several years ago,” said Walker. “I lived a lavish lifestyle, but before long, the money was gone. And those friends were gone. I want the students to learn from that and to know how to make the right choices moving forward.”
Even though the University was on spring break, students, many of them athletes, filled the Floyd Payne Campus Center to listen to Walker’s brutally honest tale of his success and how he lost it all.
Walker, 38, made national headlines when the All-Star was forced to claim bankruptcy after losing $110 million throughout his NBA career. Paid more than four times the average player in the league, Walker’s problems started during his rookie year in 1996 and spiraled out of control, hitting rock bottom in 2010 when he declared bankruptcy, citing $12.74 million in liabilities with $4.2 million in assets.
“I lived a very lavish lifestyle,” Walker told the more than 100 students gathered. “If I saw something I wanted, I bought it. And I took care of those around me. I figured I was the one traveling up and down the court working for the money so why not get what I wanted.”
The oldest of six children of a single mother, Walker told those gathered that it was exciting when he was drafted by the NBA in the sixth round after the University of Kentucky won the National Championship in 1996. Instead of finishing his education he started his professional career at age 19 and was awarded a $5.5 million contract.
“If I saw it, I got it,” he recalled. “I had very expensive tastes and never wore the same suit twice. I had 82 custom made suits, one for each game of the season. I had tons of watches, jewelry, three homes and six cars.”
But his lifestyle came at a price, one that forced him into bankruptcy. He estimates he lost $4 million from gambling and $20 million in a failed real estate venture when the recession hit. As a full guarantor of the investment, Walker was responsible for the debt.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” he said. “It was a process going through it and learning the value of a sound financial plan and education. I wish I knew then what I know today.”
It took Walker two years to get out of bankruptcy and was discharged from his debt in 2012. Today Walker has since downsized every aspect of his life and is working to rebuild his life and hopes to make a difference by helping others avoid the same financial pitfalls.
Now Walker is teaming with Regions Bank to share his story with college students around the country in hopes they will learn from his mistakes and show them that no matter how much they earn, they should have a sound financial plan.
“What we hope is students will understand is it is not how much money you make, it’s what you do with the money you make,” said Latrisha Jemison, senior vice president of Community Affairs for Regions Bank. “They need to learn you have to make wise decisions.”
Walker recommended students embrace moderation, plan for the future and take time to learn the basics of managing money.
He went on to say that he might not ever make $110 million again but whatever he does earn will be financially protected.
“It is the little things you do to protect yourself and your money,” he added. “I’ve experienced a life that many will never know. But now, life is about lessons. I make the money, the money doesn’t make me.”
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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.