Million Dollar Mistakes

Mark Schwarz, ESPN, March 20, 2010

He used to get the Garden crowd on its feet. Celtics fans could always count on 20 points and nine rebounds, and a shimmy shake on the side.

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That was before the DUI in Florida 14 months ago. That was before he got busted in July in Nevada for bouncing a million dollars’ worth of checks to three Las Vegas casinos. That was before his investment properties in Chicago went south.

***

Walker is dressed impeccably for our television interview in New York City. Gray pinstripe suit. This is a guy who was once robbed at gunpoint of his $55,000 Rolex.

He’s cordial, but guarded. He has come to explain how he squandered his fortune and his reputation at warp speed.

“When you make the kind of money that I’ve been able to make throughout my career, it should last you forever,” Walker said softly.

It’s difficult to say what disappeared more quickly: Antoine Walker’s extraordinary basketball skills or the $110 million he earned in 13 NBA seasons.

Walker, who also made millions off the court peddling goods for adidas as Employee No. 8, says he is not sure how much money he has left.

“It all depends on how much debt I can get out of,” he said.

Walker’s lavish spending was legendary, even by NBA standards. He had closets full of custom-tailored suits. His driveway was a showroom for Benzes, Bentleys and Hummers. He never did quite appreciate just how much they depreciate.

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He was the millionaire who kept on giving, treating his wealthy teammates to expensive dinners and sparing no expense entertaining his entourage.

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Walker bought a $2.5 million Chicago mansion for his mother, Diane. The house features an indoor pool, 10 bathrooms and a full-size basketball court.

He recently put his $3.1 million Miami home on the market. His $4.1 million downtown Chicago condo is also for sale. Walker is a motivated seller. After all, his creditors are numerous.

His former agent, Mark Bartelstein, won nearly $600,000 in arbitration from Walker for unpaid fees. In Illinois alone, no fewer than five financial institutions have been pursuing him for unpaid debts that, at one point, totaled nearly $7 million.

He also is required to make monthly child support payments of nearly $7,000 to two women.

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Walker’s NBA stock declined when he fell in love with the 3-point shot. His NBA fortune followed when he fell in love with craps and blackjack.

“I was a big gambler. I mean, I would bet a couple thousand dollars a hand playing blackjack. I betted big. I won big at times and I lost big.”

In July, Walker surrendered to authorities at Harrah’s Casino in South Lake Tahoe, because he could not cover his losses. He was charged with bouncing 10 checks totaling a million dollars.

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Maxwell [Cedric Maxwell, a former Celtics player and longtime broadcaster] saw the pattern change in 2001 when Walker spent the offseason training with Michael Jordan. He watched the two wager tens of thousands a hand at the blackjack table after a preseason game at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

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To avoid jail time, Walker agreed to pay back the million dollars he owes the casinos in three years.

He’s been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in fines to the city of Chicago for violating building codes and running his apartment buildings into the ground.

Walker says he invested more than $10 million in investment properties in the South Side neighborhoods he knows well. He entrusted his portfolio to an old friend named Fred Billings.

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Billings did not pay mortgages, hired untrained workers to make illegal repairs and is awaiting trial in Cook County for his alleged involvement in a mortgage scam. He has been charged with 13 felony counts of fraud, forgery and theft.

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When Walker signed a maximum contract in 1999, a six-year, $71 million deal with Boston, then-Celtics president [Rick] Pitino said what everyone in the room was thinking: “[Antoine Walker] will never have to worry about money again in his life.”

“I didn’t factor in poor investments. I didn’t factor in gambling. I didn’t factor in recklessness of spending,” Pitino explained.

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{snip} These days Walker owns two cars. He works in Puerto Rico. He plays for a team called the Guaynabo Mets, who have not guaranteed his contract beyond the end of March. At most, he can earn $150,000 in four and a half months.

The Mets finished 7-23 last season. They signed Walker hoping he could lead them to a championship.

So far, not so good. Walker is averaging 13 points per contest and leads the team with 10.6 rebounds. But Guaynabo expected more out of one of the league’s highest-paid players.

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nba

Antoine Walker.

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