Antoine Walker carved out a niche for himself in the NBA as a mobile power forward with a solid jumper. While he was a three-time NBA-Star and won an NBA championship with the Miami Heat in 2006, Walker is not often remembered for his achievements on the court. Instead after declaring bankruptcy in 2010, Walker has become the face of broke athletes.
Due to a series of failed real estate investments and frivolous spending dating back to his rookie season, Walker lost close to $110 million dollars and had to liquidate all of his assets, including his 2006 NBA championship ring. Walker was discharged of his debt in 2012 and has learned from his mistakes, becoming more sensible about his finances. He also has embraced his role as a “bankrupt athlete” by openly speaking about his missteps, creating a documentary called Gone In An Instant about his financial journey and more recently, Walker has partnered with Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment to help educate young athletes about the importance of financial planning.
Walker recently spoke with CBSSports.com over the phone, about his partnership with Morgan Stanley, Karl-Anthony Towns and his former teammate Paul Pierce.
The following Q&A is lightly edited for clarity and flow.
Antoine Walker: That’s great to hear. I look at Boston as my second home, it is a place I always feel very comfortable coming back to and visiting. Words can’t really express how people treat me there. No matter where I go around town, I always get a warm welcome. The fans in Boston have always embraced me and showed me a lot of love.
CBSSports.com: Have you been enjoying your former teammate Paul Pierce still light it up?
Walker: I’m real happy for him. To be entering into his 18th year in the league and still be able to perform at a level where he is making game-winning shots and be such an integral part of a team is unbelievable. It really is a credit to him - he has kept himself healthy, pretty much staying injury-free for most of his career. It is really exciting to see him play at such a high level while he is teaching the young guys. I mean teams are fighting over him now which is just a real tribute to the type of player he still is. Obviously you want guys like Paul to retire as a Celtic but they went towards a youth movement and he’s in a good situation now. I’m excited for Paul, he’s a first ballot hall of famer.
CBSSports.com: The way the game has been progressing, most teams have a stretch four type of guy. You were basically a stretch four, did you know that was how the game was going to evolve?
Walker: It is crazy to see how the game has evolved into a small man’s game. That is how the Golden State Warriors won the championship, going small and playing Draymond Green at the center. It is funny I used to get criticized a lot for shooting a lot of threes and now it is such a big part of the game.
I think Golden State has changed the way a lot of organizations think about playing basketball and teams are going to start looking at guys that have the same type of skills I had. That’s the way the game is going and it is unfortunate that the traditional center is being phased out but the game is a little more exciting to watch these days. If you are a 6 ’8” or 6’ 9” kid that can put the ball on the floor and shoot from beyond the arc, you now have a good chance of being a pro basketball player.
CBSSSports.com: Was there a moment when you were with the Heat, that you guys knew you would win the championship?
Walker: At the start of the season we set the goal of winning a championship and we wanted to remain healthy all year. We kind of knew that we were built for the playoffs and we had some trials and tribulations in the postseason but we were able to work together to get to the Finals.
Once we won Game 3 against Dallas, we all knew that we could win it. We had kind of figured them out and this was also when the format was different, so we had three games in Miami. After we won Game 3, we were so confident that we just knew we could win the next two games at home and then finish out the series in Dallas.
CBSSports.com: Know that you are a very proud Kentucky alum, there are 7 players from UK who entered the draft, who is the going to rise above the rest of them? Is it Towns?
Walker: I think Towns is a special talent. I think his versatility is unbelievable, from being able to score in the low block to blocking shots on defense, the kid has it all. He can actually shoot from NBA three-point range, that’s a shot he can make consistently. I think that he is going to be the best out of all of the seven guys coming out of Kentucky.
CBSSports.com: How did this partnership with Morgan Stanley and yourself come about? Did you reach out to them or did they reach out to you?
Walker: They had started their Global Sports and Entertainment division last year and I was looking for a financial team to partner with so I can have a platform to share my story. The whole process started a little bit after I filmed a documentary about my story, which we are currently shopping to different networks, and I met with Morgan Stanley about it. They were trying to educate young athletes and change the percentage of guys going broke. My story resonated with what they were trying to do so we established this partnership. I’m excited about working with Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports and Entertainment because it gives me the perfect platform to tell my story, something I would have never had before.
CBSSports.com: How is Morgan Stanley's financial education program different than the one NBA players go through during the Rookie Transition Program?
Walker: It is definitely more tailored to an individual athlete. But I think the actual experience of talking with an athlete like myself that has played in the same league as them, made similar money that they are about to make, will help them truly understand how to manage their finances better. I didn’t have that type of experience when I came into the league. There was no former player that I could relate to and who could share their story with me. Also with Morgan Stanley, they will have a financial adviser that has experience working with other athletes and entertainers so they can cater their advice more appropriately.
CBSSports.com: I heard you say that saying no is a very powerful action when it comes to finances but isn't that just easy to say? Seems hard to tell people no when you have known them all of your life.
Walker: You are right, it is very difficult to say no but the one thing I try and tell guys is that, this is why you need someone like Morgan Stanley in the middle, somebody to be the “bad guy.” If you want to make sure you have money for your future, you can’t be an open ATM. It is hard to say no to your mom, your friends and the people you grew up with. So you have to have someone like Morgan Stanley to step in and be the “bad guy” for you.
CBSSports.com: HBO debuted this show called Ballers recently, did you watch it?
Walker: Yeah, I liked it.
CBSSports.com: Do you feel like that show is close to real life when it comes to the financial aspect of athletes' lives?
Walker: It is pretty close. It is bringing awareness, of course there has only been one episode so far but it is not showing a real solution yet. They may show one later on but that is why my partnership with Morgan Stanley is so important. I’m telling my story and they are providing the proper financial tools, preparing athletes for their future.