Allen Iverson Is Broke: What His Sinking Fortunes Can Teach Us

Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson has been living larger than his game, and the high life is finally catching up to him.

A Georgia judge is having the former NBA star's bank account commandeered over an $860,000 debt to a jeweler that he can't pay.

Who runs up nearly a seven-figure tab at a jewelry store? The answer is The Answer.

When Good Bling Goes Bad

Iverson is hardly first celebrity athlete to burn through all of his dough. Boxer Mike Tyson and baseball legend Lenny Dykstra filed for bankruptcy. Scottie Pippen's poor business decisions and golfer John Daly's gambling ways emptied out their coffers. (For more tales in that vein, check out Broke Stars: 11 Celebrities Who Went Bankrupt.)

However, it may be hard to top the mountain of money that Iverson squandered -- and the extravagant ways in which it went up in flames.

The free-shooting Philadelphia 76er amassed more than $154 million from his NBA salary alone. Throw in his Reebok shoe deal, smaller endorsements, business deals, and other opportunities to cash in on his fame, and you have an impressive nine-figure empire -- but one that quickly disintegrated to less than zero.

Hard to imagine, perhaps, but it's easy to explain when you realize that Iverson broke the cardinal rule of budgeting: Never live beyond your means.

We Should've Seen This Coming

There were already signs that Iverson was in over his head financially in 2010. He had just left the 76ers after a brief return to his original team. When he wanted to get back in the game, no NBA teams were interested in his seemingly diminished talents.

"It's not about money or anything like that," he told reporters before heading off to play basketball in Turkey later that year. It probably was.

"The 76ers' former all-everything guard is broke -- by all accounts except his own," wrote Philadelphia Inquirer beat reporter Kate Fagan as she flew into Istanbul to check in on Iverson's new gig, playing home games in an arena with room for just 3,200 fans.

Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson

In their prime, some athletes believe that fame will last forever. They don't seem to realize that there aren't enough sports broadcasting jobs for all retired the superstars. They don't think about how endorsements will dry up after they're through lighting up the scoreboard.

In the end, there's no such thing as making too much money if your financial planning amounts to an air ball at the buzzer. There's also no such thing as making too little money -- within reason -- if you're smart enough to budget accordingly.

The Sting of Skipping Practice

One of Iverson's most colorful moments came after his team was bounced out of the playoffs in 2002. His coach criticized A.I.'s tendency to miss team practices.

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"We're sitting here -- I'm supposed to be the franchise player -- and we're in here talking about practice," Iverson began in a rant that went viral. "We're not even talking about the game, when it actually matters. We're talking about practice."

Iverson did practice. All NBA players practice hard while they are in their prime. (How else can they stay that way?) However, mocking the value of practice was perhaps a cruel case of foreshadowing the fate that would befall him a decade later.

Basketball players repeat the basics -- over and over -- even after they become second nature. If Iverson had practiced the adage of living beneath his means, he certainly wouldn't be in the predicament he finds himself in today with his bank account seized and any future wages garnished.

Iverson had it wrong. Practice matters. Practice is as important as the game itself.


Iverson had every right to live a rich life. His entourage often numbered in the dozens. When you're making millions a year, no one is going to tell you that you can't spring for bottle service at a nightclub's VIP room or take the buddies out to throw money around at a casino where the odds are always stacked in the house's favor.

No one tells a multimillionaire that he can't buy fine jewelry for his wife, family, and friends, and friends of friends.

The problems arise after the lifestyle they grow accustomed to ceases to be financially feasible. When you buy a mansion -- or several opulent pads -- no one reminds you that each of those properties will cost a fortune to maintain and that property taxes are based on their outrageous market values.

Should I save money? Invest money? Realize that a childhood friend may not be the best source for sound business advice? These questions don't seem to require answers when the money's rolling in. Traveling to road games with a personal hairstylist -- as Iverson reportedly did -- doesn't seem so outrageous when you're the NBA's scoring leader.
Then the buckets -- and the buckets of money -- stop coming.

Fact is, living beneath your means isn't enough. You have to live beneath your future means -- and save enough along the way so that those $860,000 checks to the jeweler don't bounce.