Tim Duncan will be fine, but he sends an important message: "You have to have people checking on people checking on people."
Even as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and current Spurs great, Duncan hasn't been impervious to financial missteps. He's been taken advantage of by someone that he had trusted and now $20 million is gone. Luckily for Duncan, he's made over $220 million during his lengthy career, but not all players can be that lucky.
Columbus Blue Jackets alternate captain and defenseman Jack Johnson hasn't made $220 million in his career, but he did sign a 7-year, $30 million contract. Hockey players are typically drafted while they're young and their parents play a tremendous role in their financial care. Last November, Johnson was straddled with $10 million in debt, and just $50,000 in assets because his parents borrowed against Johnson's future earnings. Johnson is now estranged from his parents.
It's impossible to protect yourself from every open hand that comes your way, especially when they're family, but it's a tough reality that comes with being a professional athlete making millions of dollars.
And that's why it's important to highlight the incredible and wonderful process Jeff Fisher and the Rams have for signing rookies.
For three seasons, the Rams have decided to sign all of their rookies in one fell swoop. They only sign these players after they've gone through a financial management seminar so they're fully aware of what to do with their funds once they sign their new contracts.
While the idea that average football careers are only three years long is completely wrong, the fundamental concept of financial security is just as important. It's why when Dez Bryant is asking for long term financial security, instead of just a single year $13 million contract, it makes sense. Players need to get what's theirs and protect it because who knows when their career will be over.
Fisher and the Rams consider their seminar a "Financial Planning 101" crash course.
"We just feel like they'll be better suited if we can take them through step A and B of Financial Planning 101 before we give ‘em the money," Fisher said via the St. Louis Dispatch in 2013. "It's just that simple. We'll get them all signed and we're communicating with them.
"It's a life-changing event for them. We try to better prepare them for that."
According to a 2009 report from Sports Illustrated, 78% of NFL players were in "financial stress" within two years of retirement. Of players drafted from 1998-2003, 15.7% filed for bankruptcy within 12 years. These rates are astronomical for people involved with such lofty contract values.
Duncan was fortunate enough to discover his losses before they could get any worse.
"The bottom line is this: You can't be angry at yourself," Duncan shared via Bloomberg. "I keep going back to this word, but I trusted someone. I was wrong about it. I got screwed over for it. I'm not mad at myself for that. That's a lesson learned. I'll never put myself in that situation again."
These are lessons that players are learning time and time again. Hopefully, with teachers like Fisher, these are lessons that can prevent life-altering financial struggles, and it would be encouraging to see more teams adopt a similar approach.