After years of training and lengthy practices, these five athletes were signed to big paydays and pro contracts. They made millions that should have set them up for life. However, they all lost millions of dollars in wacky ways.
Many athletes spend their youths training to someday reach the highest levels of their sport. Only a very few have the talent and discipline needed to turn pro. Professional athletes can make millions of dollars through lucrative contracts, and sometimes billions when you add in their endorsement deals. However, despite their high paychecks, these five went broke in some of the craziest ways possible.
#1 Michael Vick: Lost $130 Million Dollar Contract Due to Illegal Dogfights
Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick was rolling in the money after signing with the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Sportscasting reported that Vick earned over $22 million during his time on the team, but he threw it all away after he was charged for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, which was exposed in 2007. The Falcons terminated Vick’s 10-year contract, which was estimated to be worth $130 million, while Nike and other companies dropped his endorsement contracts, costing the disgraced player multi-million dollar deals. Vick went on to file for bankruptcy and spent two years in prison.
#2 NFL Running Back Clinton Portis: Almost Committed Murder Over Losing His Fortune, Ended Up In Federal Prison
Former Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos running back Clinton Portis signed an eight-year, $50.5 million contract in 2004, which at the time made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. Portis’ NFL fortune set him up for a comfortable retirement until he trusted the wrong man, Jeff Rubin, who the NFL had endorsed as a financial planner.
Rubin stole $3.1 million from Portis’ personal account and invested additional millions in a casino that went bust. Portis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was basically broke by 2009. That’s when he decided to get a gun and murder Rubin. “It wasn’t no beat up,” Portis said. “It was a kill mission.” Luckily, Portis never pulled the trigger thanks to an anonymous friend who talked him out of the crime. In another crazy twist in 2022, Portis was sentenced to six months in federal prison and six months of home confinement for his part in defrauding a healthcare benefit program for retired NFL veterans.
#3 Legendary NFL Quarterback Johnny Unitas: Lost $4 Million on an Investment in a Circuit Board Company
When Johnny Unitas, who played in the NFL between 1955 to 1973, lost $4 million on a wacky investment, it landed him in bankruptcy court. It was a sad ending for one of the NFL’s most iconic quarterbacks. The NFL player filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991 after his bank attempted to collect on nearly $4 million in failed loans made to Unitas and his business partners in the mid-1980s for the purchase of a circuit board manufacturing company. Unitas was known as the quarterback with the “golden arm,” but all of his business ventures, including a restaurant and bowling alley, were the opposite of the Midas touch.
#4 Dan Marino: Lost Over $13 Million on an Investment in the Company That Created the Tupac Shakur Hologram
In another crazy investment gone wrong, Former Dolphins player and NFL analyst Dan Marino had a big stake in Digital Domain Media Group, a digital production company founded by James Cameron that produced the digital effects for Titanic and Transformers, as well as the Tupac hologram that appeared at Coachella. His investment, which was once worth $14 million, dropped down to a value of $850,000 after the company declared bankruptcy, according to Bleacher Report. Marino lost just over $13.6 million, which would make even a millionaire a tad woozy.
#5 Curt Schilling: Lost $50 Million on a Gaming Company Investment
MLB pitching great Curt Schilling invested more than $50 million of his career earnings into his video game company, 38 Studios, and lost it all when the company declared bankruptcy in 2012, ABC News reported. “The money that I had earned and saved in baseball was all gone,” he told radio station WEEI-FM. “I put everything in my name in this company. I believed in it. But I’m not asking for sympathy. That was my choice.”
According to a 2009 report by Sports Illustrated, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress within two years of retirement, and within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke. Similar fates have befallen professional baseball, golf, and hockey players as well. It’s a sad testament to many of the beloved athletes who entertained us for years, who ended up losing their millions over reckless decisions, criminal behavior, or outside forces beyond their control.