By: Aaron Shuttles | tuscaloosanews.com
Twenty years ago Antoine Walker was an incoming, wide-eyed freshman at the University of Kentucky.
Walker was again on a college campus last Thursday, speaking to the University of Alabama football team about the pitfalls of bad financial decisions that cost the 13-year NBA veteran more than $100 million.
Walker left Kentucky after two seasons at the age of 19 when he was the sixth overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. His life changed, and as his wealth grew the circle of those around him expanded, too.
A series of poor investments during his playing career caused Walker to file bankruptcy in 2010. To help prevent a similar fate for athletes who may one day be faced with sudden wealth, Walker teamed with Regions Bank to educate players.
“I ended up losing a majority of my wealth,” Walker said. “I ended up losing $110 million. Over my 13-year NBA career I lived a very lavish lifestyle. From cars, jewelry, clothes, family, friends, taking care of a lot of people throughout my career. So it’s a combination of things that played into it.
“I want to be able to share my story now and make sure none of these guys walk in the same path. Whether they’re an athlete or an 8-to-5 businessman, make sure they know their money is their money and to watch it.”
Walker averaged 17.7 points and 7.5 rebounds throughout his career with six NBA teams.
“I didn’t get this kind of education at Kentucky,” Walker said. “That’s why I’m excited about the opportunity of working with Regions bank on this because I never had the opportunity to go through this process. When you can hear from a former player, a guy who’s been through the same things they’re going through, this is like a no-brainer for me to want to be apart of.”
Walker said if he had it to do over again, he wouldn’t personally invest while he was playing.
“I really have no recollection of the things I was investing in, especially in the real estate market,” Walker said. “I think you should go through a financial adviser, somebody who tells you about a couple of things you should be invested in, and let them lead the way.”
Senior left guard Arie Kouandjio, whose younger brother Cyrus Kouandjio was a draft pick of the Buffalo Bills earlier this year, said the message was simple and to the point.
“He had a lot of great messages, mostly about spending your money wisely,” Kouandjio said. “Knowing it’s not worth being in the limelight and wasting your money when you get there. You work hard all your life to get to the kind of position where he got to. He reminded us to be wise about it.”
Dan Blakely, the city president of Regions Bank in Tuscaloosa, said there are a couple of keys for anyone managing their money.
“If it’s something they’re not accustomed to and they have no experience, my advice would be to find a trusted resource to get some advice and get some guidance,” Blakely said. “Sometimes that’s hard to find, to find someone you can really trust. Someone who’s not just trying to use you or take advantage of you. If you don’t understand it, ask questions. Become financially literate before you start making decisions and making bad choices.”