Five Lessons We Can Learn

By Dr. Boyce Watkins, BASN Contributor
Updated: November 12, 2009

NEW YORK (BASN) — When I went to The University of Kentucky with Antoine Walker during the 1990s, we all knew he was going to be a star.

He was headed for great things and would represent his family well. No one would have guessed that he would one day become the poster child for what NOT to do when you earn $110 million dollars.

Antoine is busted, or as my friends would say, “broker than the 10 commandments.” He was recently arrested for not paying $800,000 in gambling debts he owed to a Vegas casino.

And that’s when the financial roaches started coming out of the closet. In the midst of Antoine’s situation, we can all learn lessons. I thought I’d lay out a few for us to consider: Watch who you allow to handle your dough It might sound good to say that you have an accountant, but the truth is that you are always vulnerable when someone is doing things with your money that you do not understand. Additionally, allowing friends and relatives to have access to your financial accounts is a very bad idea. While I have major issues with Bill Cosby, I was always impressed by the fact that he takes care of his own money.

Also, one of the sad realities of NBA athletes is that most of them were not properly educated during college, given wimpy little majors that didn’t interfere with their athletic schedules, so some of them are unprepared to protect the wealth they work so hard to earn. Get an education — you’re going to need it.

Don’t judge him harshly, this can happen to anyone Going broke or going to jail is not just something that happens to bad or irresponsible people. The same is true for a gambling addiction.

While we are tempted to attack Antoine Walker for his situation, the truth of the matter is that gambling problems impact hundreds of thousands of people every year: Campuses are being overrun by TV poker challenges and other seemingly harmless, yet financially devastating temptations. If you don’t yet have a gambling problem, be careful not to start one. That’s an easy way to go broke.

Stay away from the vices: Drugs, gambling or other costly addictions have led to the financial downfall of many people In addition to gambling, other vices such as drugs or alcohol can accelerate your path to the poor house. What’s worse is that the temptation to engage in these activities is greater when you have more money to burn. NBA and NFL stars are still quite young, and the idea of giving a 22-year old $10 million dollars a year is a scary thing. Even I would have made terrible mistakes if I’d received that much money so early in life. If you are in a relationship with someone who regularly engages in any of these bad habits, you might want to reconsider that relationship. It can cause you a great deal of trouble later on down the road.

Show your love, but put a cap on it Antoine Walker has shown himself to be a generous man, giving to children and taking care of relatives. The problem is that it’s difficult for anyone to be a one-man welfare machine. I only call it welfare when someone is asking for something for nothing. I find that it is more productive to ask for something before you give something away; put the relative to work on productive activities that will help save you money. It will make both of you feel better in the end. Also, budget your charity to ensure that you don’t go overboard in your giving. Typically, those who are asking you for money today won’t be anywhere around when you are having financial problems.

Watch how hard you bling While “blinging” and “balling” might be incredibly tempting, you should limit the number of status symbols you acquire in order to show your wealth.

Antoine Walker has always loved to “do it big,” renting limos for every occasion and not wearing the same suit twice during the playoffs. While he gets a lot of points in style, the truth is that such financial extravagance is not only financially draining, it also makes you a big target. Years ago, when Antoine was robbed of several thousand dollars during a trip to Chicago (and again later at his home in Miami), we can probably assume that the robbers knew they were coming after a wealthy victim.

I am not here to attack Antoine Walker. Instead, my goal is to make his challenges into a true teachable moment. The old model of the black athlete getting rich, staying uneducated, balling out of control and going broke has absolutely got to change.

We must aim for something better.