It’s been well-documented of late, but here it is again.
Former NBA player Antoine Walker is broke. He earned (so to speak) $110 million over his career, and yet he spent it all. Now, only 15 months removed from his last stint on an NBA roster, Walker is in serious financial straits, facing legal troubles for both unpaid gambling debts and for failure to maintain properties that he owns in Chicago. His agent sued him for unpaid fees – and won – and the NBA pay checks stopped coming last year.
Whatever Antoine had, he spent, and he spent it on things with no redeemable value. Clothes, cars, drink, food, blackjack hands and dishonest associates. None of that means anything to a creditor. It’s all gone. Antoine is broke.
It’s also been well-documented of late that Walker had gone to Puerto Rico to start playing ball again. Playing in Puerto Rico is far from an abnormal thing for good basketball players to do; for many years now, fringe and former NBA talents have played there over the summer for some extra money. The Puerto Rican league takes place when most others don’t, and it’s in large part because of this that it holds the attraction for such talented players. It is a pretty high standard level of basketball, too; players to have there this year include former NBA talents Lee Nailon, DerMarr Johnson, Courtney Sims, Damon Jones, Robert Traylor, and all this lot. Puerto Rico is a regular stop for fringe NBA players grinding out their careers around the world, players who often play in the far East and central Americas in a rotation now known as the Dan Langhi Tour. It’s a common occurrence and, all told, a decent gig.
But Antoine wasn’t a fringe NBA player. He was a star, an All-Star, a big name, one of the biggest names in the game. While it is sensible and normal for Dan Langhi to be earning his living there, it represents a massive fall from grace for Walker.
Former All-Stars should not have to scrap for a living once their NBA playing days are over; instead, they should just slink off quietly, and waltz into a steady studio job with a major network. Not Antoine, though. He’s having to do something he’s never done in his career before – grind. It’s unsightly, unbecoming and unattractive for a man who once had so much.
And now it’s gotten worse; Walker has been released by his team.
Walker signed with Mets de Guaynabo a few months ago, doing so simultaneously with former Chicago Bulls forward Marcus Fizer. Fizer has played in Puerto Rico twice before, so this is not new for him, but it was Antoine’s first time. And like most first times, it ended disastrously and prematurely.
In eight games for the team, with only one start, Walker averaged 28.8 minutes, 12.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Those are not bad numbers, but Antoine shot only 41% from the field, 22% from three and 52% from the foul line, his 99 total points coming on 94 total field goal attempts. More importantly, those numbers are relative to expectation, and by being the biggest name (and most expensive player) in the whole of the Baloncesto Superior Nacional, expectations for Walkah were exceedingly high.
His performances were not.
This news is a depressing story about a man’s life in turmoil. Antoine Walker used to have ridiculous amounts of money, but he spent it all on crap, and now he owes ridiculous amounts of money. But without a means of income, he will never be able to repay it. Antoine faces prosecution and possible incarceration if he doesn’t pay it, but he can’t pay it if he can’t earn it. He can’t earn if he doesn’t play. And unfortunately for us all, Antoine can’t play like he did any more. It gets no more complicated than that.
There aren’t many options available to you once you’ve been released by a Puerto Rican team. If you want summer money, you basically have to play there, unless you want to go to New Zealand (an option explored by Syracuse graduate Eric Devendorf, who is averaging 31.0 points and 5.3 assists down there for the Harbor Heat). Antoine’s options for the summer, therefore, are pretty limited. He can either:
1) Try and sign with another Puerto Rican team.
2) Come home.
In fact, that’s only really one option.
Of course, there is no mandate which says that he has to play this summer. He is still a free man, for now. However, Antoine did not play elsewhere during the early part of this season, and is a long long long way from being a good fit for the highest standards of European basketball. He has repayment schedules to meet if he is to avoid jail time, and employment is critical. But lacking. With his NBA candle burned out, China now looks like Antoine’s likeliest destination next season. Yet there’s no guarantees that the Chinese league – whose season does not start for another right months – will want him. And even if they do, the money is not what it once was in Chinese basketball.
Put simply, Antoine is running out of options.
With his money, Antoine had ten years better than any you or I can ever imagine. In one respect, then, it was not a waste. But it is increasingly uncertain what the next 40 will hold. He had a great twenties, but it’s been a bad thirties. And his forties are shaping up to be comparatively desolate.
Antoine still has time to turn this around, but it’s running out.