The connection between professional athletes is well established. The simple fact is that rich athletes are very fond of gambling. Whether it is because they have too much money, their competitive nature, their personality, or some combination of those factors, we often hear about some famous athletes that have lost a small fortune gambling. NBA players are no exception from this rule and over the years, the league has had its fair share of scandals involving its top stars and gambling.
Charles Barkley is known as perhaps the best basketball player that has never won an NBA championship. In terms of gambling, he is also regarded as the player that has lost the most money gambling. According to his own estimates, he lost between $10 and 15 million dollars in the last 30 years. These mind-boggling numbers prove two things. First, regardless of how much he enjoys gambling and betting, Barkley isn’t very good at either. Second, he doesn’t know when to quit. Interestingly, Barkley never denied that he is losing staggering amounts of money on his gambling activities, but always claimed that it isn’t a problem, as he can easily afford it. His record is losing $2.5 million in a single sitting at a blackjack table. He was also on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed by Wynn Las Vegas casino for not paying a $400,000 marker in 2008.
The former 2001 NBA MVP, Alan Iverson, has made more than $200 million just from team contracts in his career. Thanks to his gambling escapades, he came perilously close to losing it all several times. Iverson enjoyed playing all sorts of gambling games, including poker, blackjack, and slots. He also had a passion for sports betting but was infamous for being a sore loser. His outbursts after losing have led him to be kicked out and even banned from several casinos. His most infamous incident happened in 2004 at Bally’s Atlantic City casino, when he urinated in a trash can and was promptly banned from ever entering the casino ever again. In those days, online casinos were just getting started, so Iverson didn’t have an option to easily compare and find a new casino like we have today. A ban was permanent and even served as a sort of a wake-up call for the former Philadelphia 76ers star player.
Antoine Walker is probably the most tragic cautionary tale in modern NBA. The former NCAA champion with Kentucky, Walker was drafted 6th by the Boston Celtics in the 1996 NBA Draft. His career was off to a great start. He led Boston in scoring in his rookie year and made the All-Rookie First Team. Two years later, Walker and Pierce led Boston to the team’s first playoff appearance in seven years. They reached the Eastern Conference Finals before being eliminated by the New Jersey Nets in six games. Walker made it to the All-Star Team. However, his gambling addiction was already affecting his career and Boston traded him to Dallas, which promptly sent him to Atlanta. He changed teams several times and retired in 2012. Just two years later, he filed for bankruptcy, having blown through an estimated $108 million of his career earnings.
His Airness is perhaps the biggest gambler that has ever played in the NBA. His exploits are legendary and stories about his gambling still resurface today, decades after he stopped playing basketball. Jordan claimed that gambling never affected him adversely because he was rich and that it was simply a consequence of his competitive nature. Whether it is true or not, Jordan’s gambling issues have taken a toll on his personal wife and perhaps even his career.