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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Julius Erving Denies that Financial Problems Forced him to Sell Memorabilia

Julius Erving says that he had a "sleepless night" after reading reports that financial difficulties forced him to sell 144 items from his personal memorabilia collection (a stash that includes three professional championship rings plus a 50 Greatest Players ring). A press release about the auction came out almost simultaneously with a report that an Atlanta bank is suing Erving for more than $200,000, so it was only natural to assume that a financial crunch forced Erving's hand regarding items that most people would consider to be priceless treasures.

When I looked through the auction catalog I noticed that Erving's Hall of Fame ring was not listed; it turns out that this is one of the few mementoes Erving decided to keep. One might think that championship rings and a 50 Greatest Players ring would be important to Erving--and also to his children--but Erving claims that he is not a "hoarder or collector" and that his memorabilia has been sitting in storage for decades. Erving explains, "My family is 100 percent behind it (the auction). We decided to do it a long time ago. To claim it's a firesale or to clear up some debt, I don't think so. You don't do an auction overnight. This has been long planned. We had 4,000 catalogs that have been mailed already to people who buy this kind of stuff. With me being involved in the process and the one that's putting it out, it's actually a better situation economically than if my children or grandchildren were to do it. We decided now's the time." Some of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Salvation Army, which has long been one of Erving's favorite charities (his basketball career began when he played for a Salvation Army youth league team).

I suppose that we have to take Erving at his word when he says that he is selling his memorabilia by choice and not necessity but the fact that the auction has been in the works for a while does not prove that there is no connection between it and Erving's financial situation; the bank lawsuit is just the latest in a series of financial problems hitting Erving, including the foreclosure of his Utah home and the loss of $5 million as a result of his investment in a failed golf course.

I hope that it is true that Erving is not broke or desperate but I must admit that I am puzzled by the notion that a great player would voluntarily sell off honors and awards that he worked so hard to obtain.


posted by David Friedman @ 12:10 PM



At Thursday, October 27, 2011 2:55:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

David, this is unfortunate. And now both of your favorite players have been in trouble financially recently, very unfortunate.

Hard to exactly say what's going on with Erving. He's definitely going through some stuff right now, but hopefully he's not near bankruptcy. If I were one of his children, it'd be nice to keep his items that he's accumulated throughout his career. The rings would probably be the most valuable items, at least sentimentally, at least he's keeping one.

If we take him at his word, which we should, then these items don't mean a whole lot to him, which everyone is different, and that's understandable. Some athletes would want to keep them, and others not so much.

At Thursday, October 27, 2011 3:36:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I'm not sure which is worse--if Erving is broke or if he simply does not place much value on his championship rings, MVP trophies, etc. Actually, I guess it is worse if Erving is broke and maybe it is just my particular perspective that certain honors/awards should be cherished.

Sadly, Erving and Scottie Pippen (my second favorite player and presumably the player you referred to in your first sentence) are just two of many, many retired athletes who have suffered varying degrees of financial distress despite making significant sums of money from their salaries and endorsements. Pippen grossed over $120 million in NBA salary alone but lost a significant portion of it due to various bad business deals; he recently won a $2 million court verdict against some of his former advisers but, compared to the fortune he lost, that is just a drop in the bucket.

Based on the publicly available information, Erving earned much less than Pippen and Erving steered clear of financial problems/bad investments until very recently--that golf course fiasco just seems like a bad decision at the worst possible time (i.e., pumping money into real estate with the economy collapsing). Pippen seems to have been a bit more reckless with his money than Erving but, regardless of the particulars, it is sad to see two players who contributed so much to the game lose so much of their hard earned money.

At Thursday, October 27, 2011 3:52:00 PM, Anonymous Greg said...

I've looked through the auction catalog and there are a number of pieces that aren't in the best shape. To me, that would indicate many of these pieces have indeed been sitting in storage for quite some time.

At Thursday, October 27, 2011 4:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not sure what shape one would/should expect 30-40 year old items to be in so I am not qualified to comment in that regard but what you are saying makes sense.

Erving will always be a multiple-time champion/multiple-time MVP regardless of what happens to his rings, trophies and plaques but it is surprising to me that he does not have a greater personal attachment to at least some of those items.

At Thursday, October 27, 2011 7:50:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

I also think if he's broke, that's much worse. In a way, it's kind of refreshing that he doesn't hold much value for material wealth, if that's truly the case. In the end, it's just stuff. And the real value of it is the sentimental value to Erving himself. I bet he values his success and achievements on the court and in life, but his memor. up for auction are just items to him that just fill up space. I'm sure he'd like to keep them, but maybe not. Maybe he's doing it to benefit his children as he says, but it seems ironic that the auction and lawsuit are happening at the same time.

It is sad that so many athletes are going broke, and I wish that wasn't the case. But, a part of me also says , 'come on, really, you can't manage your money better than that?' I know that's not the case with some retired athletes, but that's the majority with most of them. Erving didn't earn anywhere near as much as Pippen either for career salary. Pippen's salary alone is a ton of money, but he had other avenues of money coming to him, such as endorsements, etc., just like most players. In a way, it seems like having all this money is very detrimental to a lot of athletes. Wealth is not to be taken lightly.

Isn't pippen a radio or TV guy currently for the bulls? He's still making good money, or plenty of money to live off of. I wonder what Erving is doing now. I'm sure he has some income coming to him regularly in one way or another, but obviously his failed golf course deal is a lot to overcome.

The same thing seems to have happened to my favorite player growing up, Shawn Kemp. He made a lot of money. I don't think he was too wise with it either, but maybe in a differen way. Having kids with 9-10 different women or whatever it is, is quite unresponsible, and he's other had issues as well, I'm sure.

At Thursday, October 27, 2011 10:50:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In the AP article that I linked to in the first line of this post Erving says that he is currently living off of the income he receives from working for a cell phone business, a medical records company and some other businesses. It is not clear exactly what he does for those corporations.

Last season Pippen did some media work for the Bulls but I am not sure if he is still with the team (once the lockout ends).

I believe that Shawn Kemp had some substance abuse problems in addition to his heavy child support debt. Kemp was a great player who at times was the best player on the court during the 1996 Finals. He was never the same after the 1999 lockout; he came back grossly overweight and never regained his old form.

At Friday, October 28, 2011 12:12:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

It makes no sense to sell you stuff unless you need money. I love Dr J but he also denied Alexandra Stevenson at first too.

At Friday, October 28, 2011 2:41:00 PM, Anonymous Greg said...

I was just pointing out that some of these item clearly weren't on display in a climate controlled environment. I have NBA game basketballs from the 70s and 80s and they look just like new.

Grey Flannel also has some Erving items in their current auction, which come with an Erving family COA. No idea which Erving family member is selling these.

At Friday, October 28, 2011 3:25:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't think that "storage" implies a "climate controlled environment." Also, the wear and tear on some items (like championship rings) could perhaps date back to a period when those items were worn/used before being put into storage.

At Sunday, December 25, 2011 12:25:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

In light of the earlier references to Scottie Pippen, it is important to note that--contrary to some published reports--Scottie Pippen is not bankrupt. As I correctly noted above, Pippen has had some financial setbacks--one of which was at least partially alleviated when he won a lawsuit against some people who defrauded him--but he never went broke and he is in fact
suing 10 media outlets that he says libeled him by falsely stating that he is bankrupt.


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