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Antoine Walker, A Cautionary Tale

Sadly, Antoine doesn't have much to wiggle about these days...
Sadly, Antoine doesn't have much to wiggle about these days...

Blessed with tremendous physical gifts, Antoine Walker drew criticism from Celtics fans because he never seemed to make the smart play.  Rather than focusing on making fundamentally sound decisions, Antoine always seemed to go for the high-risk, high-reward plays.  Instead of posting up his man, Antoine would go for the dagger three-pointer.  Rather than making smart passes, Antoine would attempt to make a spectacular play.  While this style of play earned Antoine three all-star births, it also resulted in him being seen as one of the least efficient players in the entire league.  In short, Antoine Walker was a player that no fan, coach, or GM would want a young player to emulate.

Sadly, it appears that Antoine is proving to be a negative role model for his off-the-court activities, as well.  Of course, even in his Celtics days, Antoine was not immune to trouble off of the court. However, since leaving the team, Antoine's life seems to be in free fall.  In Miami, Antoine was deactivated for failing to meet team conditioning goals.  Shortly thereafter, he was robbed at gunpoint in his Chicago home.  In January of this year, Antoine was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving, followed by another arrest for passing bad checks in excess of $1 million.

Now comes word from Shira Springer that Antoine has squandered nearly all of the $110 million+ he has earned over the course of his career.  How does somebody blow through that type of money?  Springer offers some of the details:

He liked to move in an outsized entourage; his mother estimates that, during his playing days, he was supporting 70 friends and family members in one way or another. And speaking of his mother, he built her a mansion in the Chicago suburbs, complete with an indoor pool, 10 bathrooms, and a full-size basketball court.

Living at the Bishops Forest condominium complex in Waltham during the Celtics season, Walker turned the pavement surrounding his home into a virtual luxury car lot - two Bentleys, two Mercedes, a Range Rover, a Cadillac Escalade, a bright red Hummer. Often, the vehicles were tricked out with custom paint jobs, rims, and sound systems at considerable added expense. He also collected top-line watches - Rolexes and diamond-encrusted Cartiers.

He also rewarded loyal family members and friends with expensive gifts. Shortly after being drafted, he gave his best friend a new car. A Mercedes sport utility vehicle parked in the driveway of his mother’s home was a gift from Antoine to his younger sister. And early in his NBA career, he paid off the debt his mother accumulated sending him to Catholic schools. He finally received his high school diploma when he took care of his overdue tuition.

Sadly, even as he's approaching a forced retirement, Antoine has found it impossible to make the fundamentally sound decisions that would be in his best interest.  Instead, his non-playing days have been marked by the same "high risk, high reward" style that marked his time on the court.   Unfortunately, as many fans would tell you, such high risk gambles rarely pay off in the long run.

(More details about Antoine's financial ruin below the fold.)

A Globe review found that, during the last seven months, Walker has been pursued by multiple financial institutions for unpaid debts totaling more than $4 million. Court documents filed in Illinois and Florida reveal Walker was named a defendant in three recent debt-related civil cases, in addition to the ongoing check-kiting case. His former agent is also after him, citing a heap of unpaid fees.

A default was entered in the American Express case with $53,321.71 in overdue credit card charges at stake, including some that fit the picture of a free-spending star - an $1,843.45 dinner, with a $350 tip, for instance. Or, two nights at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami for $2,198.04. And Walker, remarkably, appears to have authorized five people to make charges on his card, not a strategy most personal finance professionals would recommend. Many of the charges appear to have been rung up by another individual, but Walker is on the hook.

Then, there were the custom-tailored suits - closets full of them, including the set he ordered for his first playoff run in 2002, enough so he wouldn’t wear a suit more than once during the postseason run. When the Celtics officially hired Jim O’Brien as head coach in 2001, Walker had his tailor make three suits and presented them to O’Brien.

When it came to his Celtics teammates, Walker took good care of them on the road. It wasn’t uncommon for Walker to hire limos to take out groups of teammates. And Walker always paid for the big dinner bills.

Bad investments and gambling losses may be to blame for draining away much of Walker’s remaining bankroll.

Gambling has long been a favorite form of entertainment for Walker. After a 2001 exhibition game at Mohegan Sun, Walker once reportedly played $15,000 hands with Michael Jordan during an all-night gambling session where estimates of money lost and won totaled several hundred thousand dollars. Prior to the 2003-04 season, when Celtics general manager Danny Ainge called Walker to tell him he had been traded, Walker was engrossed in a high-stakes blackjack game at Mohegan Sun.

It's hard, seeing a former Celtic fall to such depths.  Love Antoine or hate him, I'm sure none of us would wish this upon his.  He's become a victim of his own excess, as well as the greed of others.  Let's hope that the new generation of current Celtics learns a lesson from Antoine.  Sadly, that has become Antoine's NBA legacy:  a shining example of what not to do.

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