The Economics of the NBA Draft

From overnight millionaire to overnight cautionary tale.

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With the 2022 NBA Draft in the rearview, a handful of teenage hoopers have become overnight millionaires. In recent years, the Association’s held mandatory financial literacy classes to give incoming rookies a crash course on everything from budgeting basics to spotting shady investments. But much like lottery winners, that hasn’t stopped NBA stars from blowing it all—and then some. 

We’ve mixed the cautionary and the heartwarming. 

Ben Simmons: Exotic pets

The 2016 1st overall pick banked $6 million before playing a single NBA game, then dropped $10K of that on a pair of Savannah cats. Simmons was forced to give up the designer pets after they became too much of a headache. Ironic, since Ben was “given up” a few years later when he proved too much of a headache for the Sixers!

Harrison Barnes: A “really nice bed”

You can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep. Barnes finally made his childhood dream of owning a “nice bed” come true after being drafted by the Warriors, saying that mattress shopping felt “like Christmas” after years of counting every penny. 

Jalen Rose: $15K on a phone

Yes, you read that right. The former lottery pick spent his entire rookie contract, including $15,000 on a sapphire crystal phone with 24/7 concierge service. It’s supposedly “the Rolls-Royce of phones” — but Rose never even used it. 

Shaquille O’Neal: Millionaire → $80K in debt 💸

Shaq signed a million-dollar endorsement deal leading up the ‘92 draft. By the time Orlando picked him #1 overall, it was all gone. So, where’d it go? 

  • 3 Mercedes-Benz (1 for him, dad, and a “little” Benz for mom) = $500K
  • Jewelry, clothes, pager (ask your parents) and cell phone = $100K
  • Taxes + agent fees = $400K+

Michael Carter-Williams: Nothing

On the advice of his mom/manager, the promising Philly point guard lived off endorsement deals while putting every cent of his rookie contract into a trust fund that he couldn’t touch for three years. It was a smart move, especially since the former Rookie of the Year wound up getting hurt and has bounced around on a series of smaller deals ever since. 

The takeaway? Always listen to your mom!