Last week, Kelly Dwyer shared with you a monster story by Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballard about how former NBA star Antoine Walker found himself playing for the D-League's Idaho Stampede and sharing a $915-a-month apartment with a teammate, about as far removed as possible from eight-figure contracts and All-Star appearances. It's an amazing read.
In the feature, Ballard writes about how Walker became broke, detailing the steps that led the three-time All-Star to declare personal bankruptcy in May 2010 "after blowing the $110 million he made as a player (as well as the unspecified millions he landed in endorsements) due to a lavish lifestyle, a series of disastrous real estate deals, sizeable gambling losses and well-intentioned largesse." Walker had racked up $12.7 million in debts at the time of the filing, according to court documents, and had just $4.3 million in total assets remaining.
Finding his way out of such massive debt has been difficult on Walker — he's lost a fiancee and many former friends in the process — but he's gained some perspective in the bargain, and Ballard says Walker is doing his level best to "find the silver lining" in the difficult position in which he put himself.
Having to see the 2006 NBA championship ring he won as a member of the Miami Heat head out the door will not make that silver lining search any easier.
According to court docs, Walker had to liquidate his property to pay back his creditors ... including his ring. Now TMZ has learned, the ring has been tentatively sold to a guy named Andres Garcia for a cool $21,500.
A judge needs to sign off on the deal before any money changes hands ... but we're told it's pretty much a done deal.
Walker had already passed his prime years as one of the NBA's more dangerous and versatile forwards by the time he arrived in South Beach for the 2005-06 season, but he was still a valuable contributor on the Heat team that won the title behind star turns from Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. Walker appeared in all 82 Heat games during the regular season and started all 23 postseason contests en route to Miami's 4-2 vanquishing of the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks that summer.
His numbers were by no means gaudy — sub-15 Player Efficiency Ratings, still-dodgy field-goal percentages, more than six threes jacked per 36 minutes of run, etc. — but, still ... he was there, you know? He participated, he contributed and he won a ring. And now, it's gone. For $21,500. To some dude named Andres.
Walker is far from the first pro athlete to part with a championship ring. Some, like Metta World Peace/the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, Darko Milicic and former Boston Red Sox reliever Scott Williamson, auction off their diamond-studded mementos for charitable reasons. Others, like former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra and the legendary Julius Erving, have had to auction off their rings to defray court costs.
It's a shame that Walker had to join the latter group rather than the former, but that's what happens when you're neck-deep in hock. The things you own, the things you worked for, the things you earned? They're only yours until you have to give them up. And on a long enough timeline, if you keep making bets you shouldn't (at the table or elsewhere), you're going to have to. There's a reason they call them cautionary tales.