|The Top 10 Professional Athletes With Gambling Problems
Joined: 11 Mar 2006
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10 Top Professional Athletes Who Gamble By: Chris Watford
For superstar athletes there comes a time when they know that they’re going to go pro; whether it be in middle school, high school, or even college. Knowing that you’re going to be a millionaire athlete at a young age can be kind of surreal and provides a lot more possibilities that they never imagined - the money, the fame, the women. Back in the early 00’s and 90’s a lot of athletes struggled with spending their finances and often times went bankrupt (see: Allen Iverson). Let’s take a look at some of the athletes over the years who struggled with more than just spending problems. Let’s take a look at athletes who gambled.
Michael Jordan - NBA
This one is pretty well known but it’s still one of the most interesting examples. Michael Jordan is a lot of things: the GOAT (greatest of all time), a jackass, competitive, ruthless. But more than anything, Jordan was an icon. I wouldn’t exactly say that MJ “struggled” with gambling as much as he was - and still is - addicted to it. There are many stories about MJ’s gambling problems, but some of them are a little more weird than others. Back in his Bull’s days, Jordan was known to bet $100K on a game of rock, paper, scissors with his teammates. Jordan enjoyed gambling with his team and other NBA stars such as Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and then-teammate, Scottie Pippen. In one instance, MJ stayed up until 6 AM the night of his Olympic series against Croatia playing poker with aforementioned players. MJ bet on literally everything imaginable - including who would get their luggage first at the airport. MJ reportedly bribed an airport staff member and made $900 off of a disgruntled teammate. Jordan is pretty lucky that he never went bankrupt with his love for gambling, as a matter of fact he’s the richest athlete alive - with a net worth of $1.65B. Michael Jordan is… Something else.
Gilbert Arenas - NBA
Booray - a card game that originated in Louisiana - that has taken the NBA by storm over the past two decades was Arenas game of choice. Arenas is like Michael Jordan in a sense - he’s competitive. But his competitiveness and gambling was the downfall of not only his career, but Javaris Crittenton’s as well. After Arenas had taunted and destroyed Crittenton in a game of booray on the team plane Crittenton was livid, but Arenas didn’t care. Arenas taunted Crittenton and threatened to burn Crittenton while he was in his car. Crittenton said “I’ll just shoot you then” to which Arenas replied, “I’ll bring you the guns to shoot me.” And Arenas delivered on that promise by bringing four unloaded guns to team practice and laid them on the table for Crittenton to shoot him with. Crittenton didn’t need those guns though, he brought his own gun to the locker room - and his was loaded. Crittenton cocked the gun at Arenas and pointed it directly at Arenas with terrified teammates sitting in the locker room. This altercation ended with both players being suspended by then-commissioner, David Stern. Arenas continued to play after that season, but Crittenton didn’t make it back into the NBA and ended up joining a different club - the Crips. Crittenton was sentenced to prison for voluntary manslaughter after killing a 22 year old woman in a drive-by shooting, with a release date of 2036.
Pete Rose - MLB
The only player to be ineligible for the MLB Hall Of Fame, Pete Rose remains banned from baseball to this day. During Pete Rose’s time as a manager it is still unclear whether he bet on or against the Red’s, regardless it’s a big deal. With Pete Rose being the manager of the team, he had different impacts compared to if he was a player. Rose was able to change rotations, and make decisions that could severely affect the game, that would eventually lead to his infamy that remains to this day.
Charles Barkley - NBA
Barkley has been open about his gambling addictions throughout the years and has made it public by stating in an interview “I went to Vegas a bunch of times and won a million dollars. Probably ten times. But I’ve also went to Vegas and lost a million probably three times as much.” Barkley would frequently gamble with his former-friend Michael Jordan. Barkley claims to have lost 30 million dollars throughout his years of gambling, but now he’s settled down his habits says that it’s a “non-problem” and that he can lose “only” $200K and be fine as long as he’s having fun.
John Daly - PGA
52 year old champion golfer, John Daly mentioned in his 2006 autobiography that he lost between $50 and $60 million in a 15 year period, including a loss of $1.5M in one sitting on a $5000 slot machine. Daly claims that he’s gotten better with his gambling problems and it hasn’t affected his career in recent years. Daly is currently on tour in the PGA championship, tied for 100th place as of 8/9/18.
Antoine Walker - NBA
Antoine Walker made over $100M in his NBA career and even with the NBA’s amazing 401k program, he still went bankrupt. Granted, he went bankrupt because of his lavish spending habits that included: custom suits for every game, expensive cars, expensive jewelry, but gambling still played a part in his bankruptcy. Walker racked up over $800k in gambling debts between three Vegas casinos. But what happened when he tried to pay the debts off? The check bounced. Antoine Walker is now teaching classes to incoming professional stars about wise spending habits and trying to persuade athletes to not end up like him.
Paul Hornung - NFL
Paul Hornung, four-time champ and NFL MVP was banned from the league for the entirety of the 1963 season for betting on football games. Hornung and Alex Karras would gamble between $100 and $500 (equivalent to $839 and $4200 in today’s currency) on multiple NFL and NCAA games. Hornung was eventually reinstated to the NFL in the 1964 season, to which he credits happened with the help of Vince Lombardi. In a 2006 interview, Hornung says that after he was banned from the NFL he swore off of gambling, including Vegas and the Kentucky Derby which he would attend annually.
Kenny McKinley - NFL
With a barrage of funny gambling stories, this particular example has a much darker and sinister tone to it. Kenny McKinley was drafted in the fifth round by the Denver Broncos in the 2009 draft. McKinley played in 8 games in the 2009 season as a kick returner, he returned 7 kicks for a total of 158 yard. McKinley was eventually sidelined with a knee injury in December 2008. McKinley was ecstatic to be drafted to the NFL as any player would be, but he eventually accumulated gambling debts. McKinley had borrowed money from a teammate in order to pay off his gambling debts, but the stress of the injury and his debts had spiraled Kenny deep into depression. Kenny McKinley eventually committed suicide a year after he was drafted to the NFL.
Jaromír Jágr - NHL
Jaromír Jágr had a problem with gambling in the early days of the internet, accumulating $500,000 worth of debt with an online gambling website. Jágr had agreed to make monthly payments to pay off the debt, but the owner came public with the story when Jágr quit making payments. Jágr’s problems don’t stop there however: the IRS eventually filed a $3.27M lien against Jágr for unpaid taxes.
Floyd Mayweather Jr - Boxing
Everyone knows that Floyd Mayweather is kind of a jackass, but he’s a rich jackass. Mayweather is constantly flaunting his wealth and new cars on social media, but he also loves to post his gambling wins, on the flip side, he doesn’t post his gambling losses. Mayweather reportedly placed a $10.4M bet on the Broncos in the 2014 super bowl against the Seahawks when the Broncos would proceed to lose 43-8. Mayweather denies that this ever happened. Personally, I think Mayweather just hates losing and didn’t want anyone to know that he lost. If the Broncos won it’s almost a certainty that he would flaunt it a little more than usual.