For Sessions, a new regular feature, ESPN.com's Scoop Jackson sits down with the big names in sports for an in-depth interview about life beyond just the game. In the new documentary film, "Gone In An Instant," Antoine Walker exposes how he went from NBA All-Star and champion to the new poster child of how to lose $100 million. Scoop went to Walker's home in Chicago to talk about the film (which Scoop is in), how difficult it was for Antoine to finally face his truth and how losing everything forced him to discover who his real friends were. In this second installment, Walker goes into detail about how poor decisions and a lack of caution about his finances led to financial ruin.
For the first installment, click here.
Scoop: If there was one misunderstanding or misconception that could be cleared up about everything, what would that be?
Walker: The biggest thing that people don't know about my story is that I didn't necessarily trust in one individual. The market, really -- it was really a recession and I got caught in it. What I did do that was very dumb on my part was put my personal portfolio up against all of these companies as a personal guarantor. At that time, every year I had ample opportunities to relieve myself from it because every year you have to renew the loan, you have to put up your finances again. And for two, three years in a row, I put up my finances and never thought twice about it. In the beginning, we were making money, it was extra money coming in. I decided, you know, when you are going through life and you are making a lot of money, I was like, "Let me get some businesses." When I think about all of the things I could've done, whether to open a restaurant, whether to open a sports bar or a shoe store. There were so many other things I could have done to make money besides real estate, but at that time it was profitable. I was seeing money.
Scoop: You and Fred (Billings, business partner who helped established the Walker Ventures LLC real estate company).
Walker: Yeah, we were buying up so much [property] and creating so much business, like everybody wants me to be an enemy toward Fred Billings. I'm not mad at him. He didn't do anything wrong. He mismanaged some property, he put my name in a bad light, he could have called me and we could have taken care of some things, but he had his own separate thing going on. He ended up going to jail for something totally separate than Antoine Walker. He didn't have control over my money. He couldn't call and get $50,000 or $100,000 of my money. The bank was always my safety net. And when it was time to pay up and when the recession hit, I'm the personal guarantor, they want their money!
Scoop: It's more to it than that though...
Walker: Another mistake I make was not coming home and getting on top of my business instead of thinking it was going to take care of itself. I went to court and I ended up losing default judgments. I didn't hire the proper legal teams in place. Fred is facing jail time, he's not really thinking about what is going on with me. [Billings was sentenced to five years for theft and fraud in 2010.] I'm going through my situation. Was it selfish on his part? Yes and no. It's more like, he ended up --
Scoop: Guilt by association?
Walker: Right. He ends up doing two ... years in jail. So he got what he had coming to him. Man, it was just one of those situations where it's just me not taking care of my business, not staying on top of my stuff. That's why I always tell guys they should not invest their money until they stop playing. Because if you invest once you are done playing at least you can watch [your money] and be on top of it. It's something you can be passionate about.
Scoop: And you weren't passionate about money.
Walker: I wasn't passionate about it when I was playing; it just looked good to me on paper. I was like, "OK, we're about to make this money, we're about to chop up $400,000 and make it $2 [million] -- the numbers just made sense to me. And when [the recession] hit, the lawyers were like, "The banks want all of their money." They don't want empty lots [laugh]. The banks are not into real estate, they are into money. Dollars and cents. They don't want more property, they are like, "We not [about] to build a condo on this land [laugh]!" And that's a message I have to get across to these young players.
Scoop: What about the gambling? Your gambling rep got big out here.
Walker: That's another thing that people don't really know. The gambling thing in this whole situation was so small. And that was really one incident. Over a six-week period I lost, what, $800,000. But just the year before that, I won $800,000 in the same period of time. So when I lost the $800 [thousand], I'm like, "Oh, s--- -- I'm about to tear my credit lines up." And the casino got mad. It gets a little deeper than that. I could have gone into debt and blamed the casino saying they robbed me and things like that, but really that's on me, take my responsibility for it. And really, technically, you have to pay that money back within 45 days. So if you don't pay them back in 45 days, they can take [pause] --
Walker: Yeah. You remember Charles Barkley's situation was the same thing. But he was in position to pay them. I was in a down spiral. I was like, "Whoa." I gotta give them 800 [thousand], I'm going through court over here -- see, both of mine happened at the same time. So it escalated my situation a bit more.
Scoop: Do you think black athletes and entertainers are more vulnerable to this? Because it seems to me that situations like this happen to us more than they do other cultures and races.
Walker: I think we are very vulnerable to it because we are a very materialistic culture. Um, because generally we are coming from, you know --
Scoop: We're coming from nothing.
Walker: Coming from very poor backgrounds, and when we get an opportunity to make it, we like to splurge and have a good time. It's a lifestyle that we've created for our culture. And it's a thing, it's hard to explain. We like nice things: clothes, jewelry, cars, houses.
Scoop: And I think living in America these things are shown to us all of the time and we can't attain it, so that's what we go to.
Walker: Yeah, but we don't think about when we get a million dollars, "Hey man, I'm going to put this in a 401(k)." Naw, we going to get this car for 200,000 [dollars]. Where you could have taken that money and put it in, say, a 401(k) and made some money off of it. We don't think like that.
Scoop: And we aren't taught that at 18, 19 years old. When cats get that first million-dollar check.
Walker: Even when I came into the league, my first [contract] was 1.6 [million dollars]. After I got my mom a home for 400 [thousand], my condo was 300 [thousand], then two cars, and then you gotta live, I was in debt my first year! After taxes, I only made 800 [thousand], net cash.
Scoop: But what can stop this from happening, though? I mean, you aren't the first person or the last that's gonna go through this. What's going to stop us from having this mentality? That's what I'm trying to find out. When does it stop? When does it end?
Walker: I think it starts with guys like myself who've gone through these situations getting out and being advocates for this. I sort of like how they are about cancer, everybody gets behind that cause, they get behind it and try to find cures and things of that nature. You know, raise the awareness, raise money for awareness. We have to put some money into this and put some people in front of it that's going to actually stand up and tell people. And the thing about it, Scoop, is that you're not going to hit every kid, the message is not going to reach every kid. But the thing about it is if I go out and speak to 60 rookies, I might be able to affect 20 of them. It might hit 20 of them, so when they get their first paycheck, what they were about to go do, they are not going to go and do it. You know what I mean? Now, don't get me wrong, I'll be the first person to say that you are supposed to have a good time. You work too hard, you are the one running up and down the court, you are the one doing all of the suicides, two-a-days, you are the one going through all of that. But there's a way to do it. But we are getting [the money] so young, man. And there's such a small percentage of us. When you get [money] at 18, 19, you aren't thinking about, I'm 37 now, you aren't thinking then about 18 years from now. It's just so many things they need to be told about it. If you hear about it from a guy that's been though it [pause].
Scoop: It connects differently. It's heard differently.
Walker: It hits home a little bit more. I can tell a guy, "Yeah, I know you and you boy are sitting around talking about you all can't wait until you all make it." You all sitting around playing video games, I used to do the same thing. I was on the cover of the video game. I used to get all of that stuff free. I had all of the slick technology, so I know exactly what you all are talking about. I know exactly what you are doing. I know your conversation."
Scoop: True that.
Walker: And another thing we need to address with them is the women. About them picking the right woman. A lot of guys lose a lot of their wealth over women. Now I never was married, but I was with a woman [Evelyn Lozada of "Basketball Wives" fame, who was at one time his fiancée] for over 10 years. And when I was going through bankruptcy, I was like, "Man, I done spent, net cash, over $4-$5 million on this woman?" You don't think about that. That kills your wealth, too. That needs to be made aware to a lot of guys, too. I'm not saying that you're not supposed to get married or anything like that, but we have to be cautious about that. That sometimes plays a huge part in our finances, too, toward the end. Those numbers are staggering, too. Something that we need to talk to the young guys about. By me not being married and just dating someone for 10 years, guys don't think about that. You get to taking care of them, buying them cars, jewelry, all of those types of things for them, and then you all end up breaking up or she leaves you, that's all gone, too! That's just like gambling. You're taking a gamble.
Scoop: As my mother always used to say: "It's better for it to happen now than later." Better for you -- or all of us -- to have the bad things that happen in our lives to happen when we have time to recover. You are 37. Imagine if this happened to you at 60.
Walker: Yeah, before the documentary, I used to feel that there was a black cloud hanging over my head. Felt like people were looking at me in a different light where they don't take all of your accomplishments and all of the things you've done into consideration. You feel like you're fighting against the world. But I've enjoyed the process for the most part -- finding how to get my way back. You find out who your real friends are, you find out about your family, you just find out about a lot of situations that kinda put you at ease. So that's been the enjoyable part, [finding out] the people that really support you. And the great thing about it is to right now to be hands-on, to be doing things myself and learning the business, learning different aspects of life.
Scoop: Last question: Is there a one word or one saying that defines exactly who you are as a person?
Walker: Um ...
Scoop: Like if you could reduce your whole life story into one word or one saying what would that be?
Walker: [Long pause] In one word, if there was one word, that one word would be "loyal." Just loyal. I'm trying to think of a saying [pauses].
Scoop: Would the saying be "Loyal to a fault?" [laugh]
Walker: [Laughs] That ain't bad to go with.