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Many NBA players file for bankruptcy within 5 years after they retire from playing professional basketball, and there are numerous reasons behind this unfortunate turn of events in their financial situation. A lavish lifestyle is often the main reason why players go bankrupt, but quite a few times, the people they put in charge of their money end up stealing from them, which is also a big problem for these athletes. Poor decision-making and trusting the wrong people who manage your money is a receipt for disaster.
NBA legend Larry Bird had a different way of managing his money, and unlike many players that lived luxurious lifestyles, he didn't change that much despite being one of the best-paid players during his time. Larry Legend came from a humble background and kept the same mindset after becoming one of the most influential players in the NBA, despite signing big contracts and lucrative sponsorship deals.
In the book Bird Watching, we can get a better insight into Bird's outlook on finances and why he always tried to stay as humble as possible and never led a lavish lifestyle, unlike some of his teammates. Bird came from a hard-working family where everything was earned and not given, which is why Bird had a mindset that working hard is the only way to lead a prosperous life. He always envisioned himself working even after his professional basketball career was over and not relying on the money he earned during that period.
"Even when I was at the top of my game, we didn't drive a Mercedes or live in million-dollar homes, things like that. When I first started playing, we bought a nice little house in the French Lick/West Baden area. It cost $125,000. We didn't run out and spend all our money because we knew there would be a time when it was over, and I wanted to have options on what we could do with our future. I never thought about retiring. I just assumed I would always work."
During his career, Bird had several encounters with players that made less than him but led an expensive lifestyle that soon ruined their lives and the lives of their families, and they couldn't pay their bills anymore. Bird often advised them to save money and prepare for life after their careers were over, but most of them never listened, and some even made fun of Bird and his way of thinking and handling his finances. Soon enough, some of them reached out to him to borrow some money, and Bird almost always declined because he tried to warn them in the first place about what would happen if they didn't think about the consequences of living a somewhat modest life.
"Some of the guys who made far less than me bought the $700,000 homes, and the Rolex watches, and the big luxury cars. I used to tell them, "You're crazy, you should be saving your money." They'd just laugh and make jokes about me stashing my money away. But I could see what they were doing. They were throwing away their future. So many of them were living for today and not even stopping for a minute to think about ten years down the road when their playing careers were over and the money stopped pouring in. And by the time they realized what I was telling them was true, it was too late.I can't tell you how many ex-teammates have asked me for money. It's heartbreaking for me to say no, but I do because I warned them. I told them to save."
Throughout his 13-year-long NBA career Bird made approximately $24 million just from his contracts with the Boston Celtics. Obviously, he made money on the side from all the endorsement deals but back in the 80s, they weren't as lucrative as they are today, but still, it was a solid amount considering he was one of the most popular athletes back in the day. According to various sources, Bird's net worth today is a bit over $70 million, which is proof he made the right financial decisions in his life and worked hard well after his legendary NBA career was over.
NBA players filing for bankruptcy a few years after their careers are over is a big problem, and countless similar stories resurfaced over the years. That is the main reason why the NBA implemented programs where they educated young players on how to take better care of their money. We are now seeing players investing their money in various businesses, which is a great way to diversify their portfolio, get some relevant business experience, and have a backup that can generate income when their careers are over.
Fancy cars, big houses, diamonds, and expensive clothes are nice things to have, but they don't provide any additional value or happiness, which is something Larry Legend figured out early on in his life, unlike many other NBA players who wasted immense amounts of money chasing material things. Investing in yourself and ideas that can generate profit is the best way to go while also thinking about your future and what it might look like after your professional career is finally over, no matter what amount of money you have in your bank account.
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Larry Bird remembers when players that later went bankrupt made fun of him for saving his money – "They'd just laugh and make jokes about me stashing my money away" – Basketball Network