Johnny Unitas is arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL. During his 18 years as a pro, "Mr. Clutch" won three NFL titles for the Baltimore Colts, was named NFL Player of the Year three times, and attended 10 Pro Bowls [source: Pro Football Hall of Fame]. His record of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass (47) stood for 52 years until 2012 [source: ESPN.com].
Unitas is worshipped as a minor deity in Baltimore, where fans touch the late quarterback's statue for good luck outside the Baltimore Ravens' stadium. But for all of Unitas' heroics on the field, he often ended up on the losing end of post-football business deals. Several of his ventures went belly up, including a restaurant, a bowling alley and an air shipping company [source: The Washington Times].
Unitas and his second wife filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991 after they were unable to pay back business loans for the purchase of a company that manufactured circuit boards [source: Singletary]. Unitas was still able to capitalize on his famous name with a merchandising and licensing company called Unitas Management. But after the football legend's untimely death from a heart attack in 2002, members of his family fought in court for control of the company, which also went bankrupt in 2004 [source: The Washington Times].
Author's Note: 10 Surprising Bankrupt Athletes
To be honest, I don't find it remotely surprising that so many athletes go broke within just a few years of retirement. Think about it. Due to injuries and exceptional competition, the average professional football or basketball career is a blink of an eye. It's the rare exception that a player performs at the top of his or her game for a decade or more. Even though pro athlete paychecks are high, so is the cost of the lifestyle. When everyone around you drives a Bentley and lives in a 30,000-square-foot mansion, it takes serious resolve to live modestly and save for the future. Without money in the bank, that future is bleak for an athlete who was always pressured to put sports first and education second. The athletes certainly share a portion of the blame, but I also fault a college athletic system that cashes in millions from these students without ensuring their preparation for life after sports.
- Armour, Mark. "Gaylord Perry." Society for American Baseball Research (Sept. 12, 2014) http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/f7cb0d3e
- Associated Press. "Ex-champ Holyfield having financial woes with home, child support payments." ESPN. June 5, 2008 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/boxing/news/story?id=3428080
- Campbell, Duncan. "Borg trophies sale highlights aces and double faults of tennis stars." The Guardian UK. March 3, 2006 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/mar/04/sport.tennis
- Celizic, Mike. "Dorothy Hamill: Life wasn't 'cake' after gold." The Today Show. Oct. 3, 2007 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.today.com/id/21114260/ns/today-today_news/t/dorothy-hamill-life-wasnt-cake-after-gold/#.VBHGbi5dUyE
- Chan, Stella. "Baseball's Lenny Dykstra charged with indecent exposure." CNN. Aug. 25, 2011 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/08/25/dykstra.exposure.charges/index.html
- CNN Library. "Mike Tyson Fast Facts." (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/03/us/mike-tyson-fast-facts/
- Collins, Bud. "Bjorn Borg." ATP World Tour (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Bo/B/Bjorn-Borg.aspx
- Conway, Tyler. "Sheryl Swoopes' captivating story to be depicted in 'ESPN Films Nine for IX.'" Bleacher Report. July 20, 2013 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1720985-sheryl-swoopes-captivating-story-to-be-depicted-in-espn-films-nine-for-ix
- ESPN.com. "Drew Brees breaks Unitas' mark." Oct. 8, 2012 (Sept. 18, 2014) http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8476259/drew-brees-breaks-johnny-unitas-record-consecutive-games-td-pass-front-suspended-coach-sean-payton
- Hilton, Lisette. "Skating was passion, therapy for Hamill." ESPN. (Sept. 12, 2014) http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Hamill_Dorothy.html
- Holmes, Linda. "ESPN's 'Broke' Looks at the Many Ways Athletes Lose Their Money." NPR. Oct. 2, 2012 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2012/10/02/162162226/espns-broke-looks-at-the-many-ways-athletes-lose-their-money
- Hubbard, Alan. "Boxing: Holyfield's life goes under the hammer." The Independent. Oct. 14, 2012 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/general/others/boxing-holyfields-life-goes-under-the-hammer-8210385.html
- Le Batard, Dan. "As Bernie Kosar's life around him crumbles, the former QB's game plan is familiar: Emerge unscathed." The Miami Herald. July 13, 2009 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/steelers/2009/07/13/As-Bernie-Kosar-s-life-around-him-crumbles-the-former-QB-s-game-plan-is-familiar-Emerge-unscathed/stories/200907130163
- Lelinwalla, Mark. "'Broken Silence of the Elite' details how check scam landed disgraced Olympian Marion Jones in jail." Daily News. Aug. 21, 2010 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/broken-silence-elite-details-check-scam-landed-disgraced-olympian-marion-jones-jail-article-1.205147
- Loyola University Chicago. "Sheryl Swoopes." (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.loyolaramblers.com/sports/w-baskbl/mtt/sheryl_swoopes_844854.html
- Mayo, Michael. "Gaylord Perry is Emerging from a Long Period of Sorrow." Chicago Tribune. May 14, 1989 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-05-14/sports/8902010386_1_family-tragedy-major-league-big-deal
- Pro Football Hall of Fame. "Johnny Unitas." (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.aspx?PLAYER_ID=219
- Pugmire, Lance. "Out of the money." Los Angeles Times. June 23, 2007 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/23/sports/sp-marion23
- Robbins, Liz. "Sheryl Swoopes Says She is Gay, and Exhales." The New York Times. Oct. 27, 2005 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/27/sports/basketball/27swoopes.html?pagewanted=all
- Sandomir, Richard. "Tyson's Bankruptcy Is a Lesson in Ways to Squander a Fortune." The New York Times. Aug. 5, 2003 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/05/sports/tyson-s-bankruptcy-is-a-lesson-in-ways-to-squander-a-fortune.html
- Schilken, Chuck. "Lenny Dykstra headed to jail for grand theft auto scheme." Los Angeles Times. March 5, 2012 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/05/sports/la-sp-sn-lenny-dykstra-20120305
- Schmidt, Michael S.; Zinser, Lynne. "Jones Pleads Guilty to Lying About Drugs." The New York Times. Oct. 5, 2007 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/05/sports/othersports/05cnd-balco.html?hp=&pagewanted=print
- Schoenberger, Robert. "Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar files for bankruptcy." Cleveland Plain Dealer. June 19, 2009 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2009/06/former_cleveland_browns_quarte_1.html
- Singletary, Michelle. "Johnny Unitas Files for Bankruptcy." The Baltimore Sun. Feb. 26, 1991 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-02-26/business/1991057186_1_unitas-loan-guarantee-wooten
- Tyson, Mike. "My Life as a Young Thug." New York. Oct. 20, 2013 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://nymag.com/news/features/mike-tyson-2013-10/
- The Washington Times. "Unitas clan torn apart." Jan. 2, 2004 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/jan/2/20040102-112751-6702r/?page=all
- Wilson, Stan. "Former baseball star Lenny Dykstra sentenced in federal bankruptcy case." CNN. Dec. 4, 2012 (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/03/justice/california-dykstra-sentenced/
HowStuffWorks talks to financial experts to find out the best ways to save money every day. And none of their advice includes giving up Starbucks.