Sports stars broke
Sports stars make millions during their careers, but some are unable to invest wisely and end up struggling to make ends meet after retirement. Image Credit: Gulf News

Athletes make money by the millions at the higher echelons of sport. Even at the lower levels, sport is a lucrative career, and the rewards are dependent on success. Prize money and endorsements form the bulk of the revenue, while some charge for appearances also. Many sportspersons’ rise to stardom has been rags-to-riches stories. But many have squandered their riches in retirement and live in penury.

Boris Becker’s troubles in settling his debts have grabbed the headlines of late. The German tennis star is now caught in legal battles in London after being declared bankrupt in 2017.

The 54-year-old six-time Grand Slam winner is not the only one to fall on tough times after a glittering career that helped rake in millions. Bjorn Borg, the Swede sensation with 11 Grand Slam titles, is another star who returned from retirement to pay his bills.

These are just two fallen stars in tennis. A sport where Roger Federer’s 24 years fetched $900 million, while Novak Djokovic’s 19-year career landed him over $200 million.

Bankrupt stars are not isolated to tennis. There are plenty in professional sport. Here we look at 10 prominent stars who have struggled with their finances.

Boris Becker
Image Credit: Reuters

1. Boris Becker, 54, German tennis player

Sporting record: Boris Becker created a sensation in 1985, winning the Wimbledon as an unseeded player. Aged 17, he became the youngest male player to win a Grand Slam singles title. His six Grand Slam singles titles include three Wimbledons, two Australian Opens, and one US Open. He also won an Olympic gold medal in doubles.

Net worth: At the peak of his career, Becker amassed $25 million in prize money, according to the Association of Tennis Professionals website.

Reason for fall: After his retirement in 1999, Becker has struggled with his finances. Alimony, family support and business failures eroded his wealth which was estimated at over $130 million. The German courts said he owed $2 million in back taxes. In 2017, Becker was declared bankrupt.

Image Credit: Reuters

2. O.J. Simpson, 74, American football player

Sporting record: A professional gridiron football player. O.J. Simpson played for the Buffalo Bills (1969–1977) and San Francisco 49ers (1978–1979). He was named All-American (1967–68), played in two Rose Bowl games, and won the Heisman Trophy for the best collegiate player of the 1968 season. In 1973, Simpson became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.

Net worth: Before Simpson went on trial for the murders of Ron Goldman and his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, his net worth was around $11 million.

Reason for fall: His trial on murder charges in 1995 was one of the most celebrated criminal trials in the US. Although he was found not guilty of double murder, Simpson was sued by the families of the deceased and ordered to pay $33.5m. The defence was expensive, costing Simpson an estimated $50,000 a day, and when it was over, his debt totalled $850,000.

Diego Maradona
Image Credit: Reuters

3. Diego Maradona, Died aged 60, Argentine footballer

Sporting record: One of the all-time greats in football, Diego Maradona steered Argentina to the 1986 Fifa World Cup victory. He again captained Argentina to the 1990 final, only to end runners up. Maradona led his clubs to titles in Argentina, Spain and Italy. Maradona made 694 appearances for club and country, scoring 354 goals.

Net worth: Some reports put Maradona’s career earnings at around $500 million, but others say his net worth was between $75 and 100 million.

Reason for fall: Maradona was sent back from the 1994 World Cup in the US following drug misuse. Much of his career was spent in Napoli, Italy, where he is reported to have led a chaotic life. Maradona is also said to have owed the Italian government $41 million in unpaid taxes.

Mike Tyson
Image Credit: AFP

4. Mike Tyson, 55, American boxer

Sporting record: Mike Tyson is widely regarded as the best boxer of his generation, becoming the youngest heavyweight champion at 20. Since that win in 1987, Tyson’s rise was meteoric and earned a reputation for quick knockouts.

Net worth: Tyson earned more than $400 million during his career.

Reason for fall: A divorce and rape conviction terminated Tyson’s career. He pursued a lavish lifestyle but had debts (including unpaid taxes) of around $13 million and owed $9 million in a divorce settlement, reports said. Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003, claiming debts of $23 million.

John Daly
Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

5. John Daly, 55, American golfer

Sporting record: Rookie of the Year in 1991, John Daly won three majors as he strode over the golfing world like a colossus.

Net worth: Daly won around $35m in prize money, besides earning many more millions through endorsements.

Reason for fall: A gambler, Daly is said to make bets of over $1 million and often played huge amounts on the blackjack table. He claimed to have lost about $90 million to gambling. Daly’s battle with alcohol didn’t help, and four failed marriages also undermined his finances.

Bjorn Borg
Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

6. Bjorn Borg, 65, Swedish tennis player

Sporting record: Bjorn Borg became the first player to win 11 Grand Slam titles in the Open era, including five Wimbledons in a row. The others were French Open titles.

Net worth: Borg earned over $3.6 million in prize money apart from millions in endorsements.

Reason for fall: After his retirement in 1984, Borg’s investment in the fashion industry failed miserably; his company went bankrupt. The Swede put his trophies up for sale at an auction, but a few years later his brand was bought for around €13 million.

Evander Holyfield
Image Credit: AP

7. Evander Holyfield, 59, American boxer

Sporting record: Evander Holyfield is a four-time world heavyweight champion who had some furious bouts with Mike Tyson. He’s the only boxer after Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight title three times.

Net worth: Holyfield is reported to have earned around $250 million in his career. He also was associated with several brands and television shows.

Reason for fall: Father of 11 children from five partners, Holyfield spent a considerable amount in child support and alimony. A reported gambling addiction made matters worse. So his estate was foreclosed, and many of his belongings were sold in auctions.

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
Image Credit: AFP

8. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, 50, Spanish tennis player

Sporting record: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario won 14 Grand slams, including four singles titles. She also bagged four Olympic medals.

Net worth: Her career earnings from tennis topped $17 million, but in an autobiography, Sanchez-Vicario claimed to have earned more than $60 million from tournament money and endorsements.

Reason for fall: Sanchez-Vicario said her parents and brother lost all her money. She sued her father and brother Javier, and the case was settled out of court. In 2015, the Spaniard filed for bankruptcy and underwent psychological and psychiatric treatments.

Dennis Rodman
Image Credit: AP

9. Dennis Rodman, 60, American basketballer

Sporting record: A hugely talented player, Dennis Rodman’s off-court antics and colourful life consistently garnered attention. In the National Basketball Association (NBA) league, he played for the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks, winning the title five times.

Net worth: Rodman is estimated to have earned more than $27 million in his basketball career that spanned 12 seasons

Reason for fall: Rodman maintained a high-spending lifestyle — around $31,000 a month — and gave away money to the needy. By 2012, the former basketball star is said to have owed $850,000 in child maintenance and $350,000 in state taxes. He was too broke to pay.

Image Credit: AFP

10. David James, 51, England goalkeeper

Sporting record: David James was one of the best goalkeepers in England with 572 appearances in the Premier League. He guarded the England net in international games between 1997 and 2010 and was the first-choice goalkeeper during the Euro 2004 and the 2010 World Cup campaigns.

Net worth: James is reported to have earned around $31 million from his footballing career, turning out for Aston Villa, Liverpool, Watford, Portsmouth, Manchester City and West Ham.

Reason for fall: The former England goalkeeper declared himself bankrupt in 2014 following a costly divorce in 2005. To settle his debts, he had to sell several of his prized football memorabilia. James has since fixed his financial woes, reinventing himself as a coach and football pundit, and appeared in TV game shows, including Strictly Come Dancing.