Antoine Walker had it all, and he lost it.
Now he's hoping to help young athletes destined for the former, avoid the latter.
And to do that, the former NBA veteran has spent the last two years working on a documentary, Gone In An Instant, telling the story of how he went from NBA champion and multi-millionaire to facing felony charges stemming from gambling debts and ultimately filing for bankruptcy in 2010 before turning his life around.
"I’m telling my life story about the trials and tribulations I went through throughout my career, on and off the court," he told CSN Chicago. "I’m just trying to make it a learning tool."
Walker was drafted No. 6 overall by the Celtics in the 1996 NBA Draft in a class that included Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Jermaine O'Neal and Marcus Camby. Fresh off a national championship with Kentucky his sophomore year, the 6-foot-8 power forward averaged 17.5 points per game as a rookie and was an All-Star in his second season. By his fourth NBA season he was making $9 million a year, and by 2005 had earned nearly $80 million, not including his marketing deal with adidas.
He signed with the Miami Heat in 2005, where he averaged 12.2 points per game and was the team's leading scorer in the playoffs (13.3 points per game) as Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal helped the Heat to an NBA title. He bounced around to the Timberwolves and Grizzlies after that, and by the time he exited the NBA for good in 2009, he had earned more than $113 million.
A three-time All-Star, NBA champion who had averaged 17.5 points during his 13-year career, Walker's battles were only beginning. In the summer of 2009 he was charged with three felony counts of writing more than $800,000 in bad checks in Las Vegas, ultimately pleading guilty to one count and being put on probation. Less than a year later he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Miami, admitting to $12.7 million in debts. He was forced to sell off everything he owned, including his championship ring for a mere $21,500.
It was rock bottom for the Chicago native, who played at Mount Carmel with Donovan McNabb. But it wasn't the end of the story, either.
Walker turned his life around, became debt-free and began work on his documentary. He takes blame for his financial troubles, though admitted his agent and financial advisors didn't do enough to help a 19-year-old kid who became a millionaire overnight.
"(My agent) gave me a list of financial advisors I could go with. At that time your agent was more about your marketing deal, getting his money and making sure he gets his 4 percent. At that time I did have a financial advisor, but I wasn’t taught step-by-step or how to invest, what to invest in, mutual stocks, bonds, stuff like that," he said. "And now I want to use my story to teach a lot of guys that."
He's back on track, but he wants to help young athletes make sure they don't make the same mistakes he did.
In addition to the documentary Walker has set up The 8 Foundation whose mission, according to his website, is "to develop and deliver comprehensive financial literacy programs to an underserved segment of our youth population. It will accomplish its mission by partnering with reputable financial institutions, youth organizations and schools to prove age-appopriate educational material teaching tools."
"I felt like it was a black cloud over my head, and people mis-portrayed me in a certain way because of the financial troubles I went through," he said. "So, I wanted to be able to tell my story but also make it a learning curve for a lot of guys. I want to make sure I help out the young guys. We all go through the same walks in life and I want to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes I made."
You can read more about Walker's documentary, mission and foundation by checking out his website here.