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Antoine Walker a poster child for athletes squandering riches…

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Sports, Weekly Columns

( Former NBA star Antoine Walker has been slow to enter a plea in a bad check-writing scheme that could ultimately incarcerate him up to four years. Rationalizing just how matters could have ever even remotely deteriorated to such depths may prove even more trite and profound.

For how does one really ever come to explain plowing through the merits of a king’s ransom? How any one human manages to squander upwards of $110 million in riches before so much as embarking on life’s golden years?

It’s coming to be billed as the Antoine Walker episode. But don’t get it twisted, the 33-year-old Chicago native hardly commands a singular marquee. Consider it the curse of being a world-class athlete, the maddening sense of invincibility and entitlement that seem as commonplace as all the adulation itself. It’s a formula that’s proven as obtrusive as any opponent. One that can cut short careers as quickly as it depletes bank accounts.

Michael Tyson and Mike Vick both had it. So did Latrell Sprewell and Evander Holyfield. In fact, so do roughly two in every three NBA players, according to a Toronto Star article published last year that estimates some 60 percent of all of them are assured of being destitute within five years of retiring.

For Antoine Walker, the good times didn’t even last that long. But, oh, while they did… Even by celebrity standards, Walker was revered as a high-end baller. Examples of his extravagance are as legendary as any of the feats he achieved while masquerading as Adidas-wearing ‘Employee No. 8’ during his heydays as captain of the Boston Celtics.

There were the reports of his $15,000 per hand, all night gambling binges alongside Michael Jordan at the Mohegan Sun. Acclamations of how he routinely ordered enough tailor-made suits during the start of any playoff run to assure he would never have to don the same one more than once. On any given day, at least two Bentleys, two Mercedes, a Range Rover, a Cadillac Escalade and a bright red Hummer built an intermediary fortress around his already gated mansion.

His entourage was regularly among the league’s largest, with even his own mother estimating that he once supported up to 70 friends and family members at any one time, the 10 bath, South suburban Chicago mansion – replete with a full-size basketball court and indoor swimming pool – he bought for her ranking among his most outlandish gestures.

And with that, it becomes clear that the same indomitable spirit most athletes take to the field with them is the same mindset they carry into their everyday existence. Only in real life, such “a-world-is-mine” mentality doesn’t quite translate the same. And clearly there can be a price to pay for that. Sure, as the Wu-Tang gang maintains, cash may indeed rule everything around many athletes in the short term but what of a course of a lifetime?

When attempting to delve into the mind of the modern day athlete, renown sociology professor Todd Boyd once noted on a segment of ESPN’s Outside The Lines: “You find that there are many people who are depending on this person, who are looking up to this person and who see this person’s success as their own success. As you go up the ladder, it’s not always easy to simply say to them, ‘OK, now I’m in this new position. Would you back off?'”

That’s something Antoine Walker, all 6-feet-9 inches and 250 pounds of him, simply wasn’t capable of asserting. And now he stands more than $4 million in debt, with outstanding tabs to the likes of Wachovia Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase and American Express to prove it.

In the Toronto Star article, then Raptors’ forward Jason Kapono tried to shed some light on the heart of an athlete and just how quickly things can begin to spiral out of control.
A lot of players get in trouble because they want everyone around them to lead the same lifestyle,” he said. “You buy this big house for people, and they no longer want to drive the low-end car to go with the big house. So the big house leads to the big car, to the better clothes, to the better restaurants and stuff. It’s a snowball effect. You see how guys live.”

And now we see how it can all end. Here’s to hoping a picture is truly worth thousand words.

Written By Glenn Minnis

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