Vin Baker went from a $100 million NBA career to working behind the counter at Starbucks — and he’s happy about it.
Basketball fans may remember Baker as the All-Star 6’ 11” power forward who played for the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle SuperSonics during his NBA prime. In 2000, he earned a gold medal after helping the U.S. team defeat France in the Olympics. In his impressive 13-year career, he amassed over $100 million, only to eventually lose it all to alcohol addiction and financial mismanagement.
Now 43, Baker is training to manage a Starbucks, serves as a minister at his father’s church, and works to support his four kids in Connecticut, according to a profile on the ex-NBAer by the Providence Journal. From multi-millionaire to Starbucks barista, Baker seems happy with his new life now, but he’s also got some words of wisdom for everyone who comes into contact with a huge amount of money in a short period of time.
While the extreme wealth he had in his former life is what most people dream of, Baker told the Journal that, for him, it was a recipe for failure:
“When you make choices and decisions and think that it will never end, and then you get into spending and addiction and more spending, it’s a definite formula for losing. If you don’t have perspective in your personal life and you don’t understand what this $1 million or $15 million means, it will go.”
Baker told the Journal that he’s been sober for four years now. His NBA career began to decline in 1998 before ending with a fizzle in 2006, when he was cut from his then team after only one month and zero games played. In the years that followed his retirement, Baker was forced to foreclose on his multi-million dollar mansion in Connecticut, he lost money in a failed restaurant venture, and he sued his accountant for mismanagement. All of it contributed to his $100 million savings disappearing.
Since then, Baker’s picked up the pieces of his life and he is now very happy working at Starbucks. “In this company there are opportunities for everyone. I have an excellent situation here at Starbucks and the people are wonderful,” he said.
Reflecting on his life, the once-talented player has a warning of sorts for many in the NBA who are at risk of falling into the same pit.
“When you learn lessons in life, no matter what level you’re at financially, the important part to realize is it could happen. I was an alcoholic, I lost a fortune. I had a great talent and lost it. For the people on the outside looking in, they’re like ‘Wow.’ ”
Baker suggests that more financial management resources should be in place to teach younger players how to handle multi-million dollar contracts:
“I think in professional sports today teams have to deal with the personal challenges of giving young men this extraordinary amount of money. For me it was a struggle. I think when you’re giving guys who aren’t even All-Stars $80 million, there should be a framework in place where these kids can talk to someone.”
In Baker’s experience, the saying that money that comes in quickly can leave just as fast holds true:
“I’d want guys to not take the money for granted. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. It can be gone from the wrong financial choices and decisions and people that you’re involved with or, in my case, gone from things that you struggle with off the court. As quickly as that contract can be signed, there are a hundred things that can also ruin it.
Baker recommends that young players only surround themselves with knowledgeable and trusted people and to always be aware of their expenses:
“I would insist that you surround yourself with the person you trust the absolute most, someone who can tell you, ‘You’re wrong, don’t buy that, don’t go there, that person’s no good.’ I would also say be able to monitor every single dime that comes out of your accounts as if you’re a Starbucks barista. My check here I know exactly where my money goes. Don’t trust it with an accountant or a family friend. Make sure you’re aware and be responsible because next thing you know people are stealing from you.”
While most expect the fast lives of ex-millionaires to end in jail or worse, Baker ended by talking about the real strength required to pull his life together to become what was most important in his life — a good father and family man.
“For me this could have ended most likely in jail or death. That’s how these stories usually end. For me to summon the strength to walk out here and get excited about retail management at Starbucks and try to provide for my family, I feel that’s more heroic than being 6-11 with a fade-away jump shot. I get energy from waking up in the morning and, first of all, not depending on alcohol, and not being embarrassed or ashamed to know I have a family to take care of. The show’s got to go on.”