Former East St. Louis Flyers basketball standout Darius Miles was a first-round draft pick with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2000 NBA draft with a contract worth $9 million. He starred in a movie with Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds. He landed an endorsement with Michael Jordan’s athletic brand.
His star was rising and his financial future looked secure.
In June, he filed bankruptcy.
Miles is 34 now. It’s been 16 years since the 6-foot-9 forward was drafted by the L.A. Clippers right out of East St. Louis High School.
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But injuries, legal problems and bad investments have left Miles asking the court to allow him to sell off his assets to pay creditors. Miles listed $460,385 in assets and $1.57 million in liabilities.
Miles and his bankruptcy attorney, Robert Eggmann, declined to comment when contacted this week.
It’s a plight many professional athletes encounter, said Adonal Foyle, a former NBA players’ union vice president who played with the Orlando Magic and the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s difficult for players, especially those who didn’t go to college, to be prepared to understand the business side of what they do,” Foyle said.
And it isn’t just the education, Foyle said. It’s increased maturity and varied experiences that help a player better understand the financial side of professional sports.
“They need to understand that what they do isn’t just on the basketball court, they are the CEO,” Foyle said. “They need to find the right people to watch over their money and then watch those people. It’s a lot of work.”
They need to understand that what they do isn’t just on the basketball court, they are the CEO. They need to find the right people to watch over their money and then watch those people. It’s a lot of work.
Adonal Foyle, former NBA player and vice president of player union
Sixty percent of NBA players file for bankruptcy in the five years after their retirement. Bad investments, misplaced trust, luxury purchases and child support can contribute to players’ financial collapse, said Foyle, who has authored a book on the subject.
Miles listed a $20,000 child support debt in his bankruptcy. He lost more than $100,000 in 2008 in a California real estate deal. Another real estate deal — with fellow investors former NFL Rams player Marshall Faulk and rapper Nelly — was mired in lawsuits over a Laclede’s Landing property. Newspaper stories wrote about Miles rewarding himself with diamond jewelry.
Potential players should have an agent to handle business affairs, an accountant to handle the taxes, a financial consultant to handle investments and an attorney to review contracts, Foyle said. Players should also find an unpaid mentor. LeBron James, a friend of Miles, has Warren Buffett. Foyle turns to his dad, an economist.
The accountant is paramount, Foyle said, because of the “jock tax.” Professional athletes must pay state income taxes in every state where they play away games. An accountant experienced with professional athletes can save a player a fortune in penalties and late fees. Miles listed a $282,041 debt to the Internal Revenue Service. He also said that most of his debts aren’t consumer debts, but business debts. Miles owns a single-family home in Belleville with a value of $241,000. His car is a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro, valued at $20,000.
In addition to his Belleville home, he listed 12 other properties he owns, all in East St. Louis. He has a Deutsche Bank account with $49,000 and his son’s college fund with $84,900. He also listed ownership of various collectibles with unknown value, including trophies and signed jerseys, and jewelry.
Miles was raised in East St. Louis by his mother, Ethel, who drove a bus to support her son. He learned how to dribble a basketball on roller skates. After Miles was drafted, he put his mother up in a house 10 doors down, where she continued to cook and watch out for her only son. Ethel Miles died in 2013.
In 2000, sportswriters and coaches crowned Miles as Mr. Basketball Illinois. St. John’s University recruited Miles, but the high-flying Miles opted to make himself available for the NBA draft. The LA Clippers bit. They signed Miles to a $9 million contract as the third overall pick in the draft, the highest a high school graduate had been selected in the NBA draft.
The Clippers later traded Miles to Cleveland, then he went to Portland.
There were signs that Miles was having trouble adjusting to the NBA limelight.
In October 2003, a man said he was attacked by Miles in an East St. Louis nightclub. No charges were filed against Miles. In 2004, Miles’ best friend, Geracy “Ray Ray” Stephens, was stabbed to death at a Collinsville housing project. In January 2005, he was suspended from two games after a verbal clash with coach Maurice Cheeks. He later apologized. Miles was later suspended for 10 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Miles suffered a knee injury and missed two entire seasons between 2006 and 2008. In 2009, Fairview Heights police charged Miles with marijuana possession. That charge was later dismissed.
In 2010, Miles tried to revive his career by trying out for the Charlotte Bobcats. He was later waived by the team. The same year, Miles was sued for child support by a Chicago woman who had Miles’ daughter.
In 2014, Miles sold his home on Clairmont Drive in Shiloh for $500,000.
“You have a limited window to make that money and you have to figure a way to make it last,” Foyle said.
Miles may have a chance at a career off the court. Foyle said lots of players go into acting, broadcasting or business. College may be the first step for Miles.
“College gives you a chance to figure out what you are interested in. My parents asked me when I was still playing what I wanted to do after this was over, and it got me thinking about it,” Foyle said. “Players need to ask themselves, ‘What’s the next step?’”
College gives you a chance to figure out what you are interested in. My parents asked me when I was still playing what I wanted to do after this was over, and it got me thinking about it.
Adonal Foyle, former NBA player and vice president of player union
Foyle ended his NBA career and returned to his senior year at Colgate University in upstate New York. He went on to get his master’s degree.
Miles did some acting. He was in a television series Arli$$ and two movies, National Lampoon’s “Van Wilder,” the story of a college student who doesn’t want to graduate, and “The Perfect Score,” the story of six high school students who try to cheat to get perfect scores on their college entrance exam.
Foyle said colleges, the league and the players’ union need to do a better job educating young players about finances and preparing them for a future.
“You never know when it is going to end. An injury, a team puts you on waivers. It’s all over,” Foyle said. “You have to have the money to sustain yourself while you go on to the next step of your life.”