The Female Michael Jordan Made a Fortune in the WNBA Before it Disappeared
Michael Jordan dominated other NBA players unlike anyone else in league history. And because of his prowess on the court—along with some savvy business decisions—His Airness became a billionaire. However, Sheryl Swoopes, who many dubbed the female Jordan, was not as fortunate.
Because after making a healthy salary as one of the biggest stars in women’s basketball, she watched her fortune disappear.
Sheryl Swoopes earned the female Michael Jordan nickname for her skills on the basketball court
Sheryl Swoopes spent nearly her entire WNBA career with one franchise. During her 11-year run with the Houston Comets, she developed a reputation as one of the league’s most dominant stars.
After barely seeing the floor as a rookie, Swoopes averaged 15.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in her second season. She proceeded to earn four straight WNBA All-Star selections. And with the sharpshooting wing leading the way, the Comets captured four consecutive titles.
Swoopes’ skill set, success, and swagger led many people to compare her to the greatest NBA player of all time.
“We’re breaking new ground with Sheryl. Women’s sports hasn’t had a team-sport athlete with the star appeal that Sheryl has. She’s young and pretty and attractive. She’s the female Jordan,” WNBA legend Nancy Lieberman-Cline told The Washington Post back in 1993.
Her rise to fame allowed her to become quite wealthy. But unlike Michael Jordan, Swoopes could not sustain her financial success.
The WNBA legend saw her fortune dwindle
Sheryl Swoopes never got paid anywhere close to what Michael Jordan did. But thanks to her own endorsement deal with Nike (her Air Swoopes became the first sneakers named after a woman), she managed to make quite a bit of money during her playing days. Yet she currently has an estimated net worth of $200,000, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
So what happened to Swoopes’ fortune?
According to Yahoo, she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2004. The multiple-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA MVP lost much of her earnings due to a series of bad investments and poor money management representative. The New York Times reported that bankruptcy records revealed the decorated basketball star owed more hundreds of thousands of dollars to creditors, including the Internal Revenue Service.
As seen in her ESPN documentary entitled Swoopes, Swoopes also spent freely and ended up having to sell some of her own awards and mementos.
Her financial struggles aren’t unique, though. Many athletes have been forced to file for bankruptcy after enjoying lucrative careers.
Many professional athletes have experienced financial troubles just like Sheryl Swoopes
Sheryl Swoopes wasn’t the first professional athlete to suffer financial hardships.
Former New York Knicks big man Eddy Curry made $70 million during his NBA career. However, he blew through most of his riches by spending wildly on things like cable (more than $1,000 per month) and a $6,000-per-month personal chef.
Andre Rison enjoyed a brief run as one of the NFL’s top wideouts. His expensive jewelry habit contributed heavily to his financial problems. In 2007, the five-time Pro Bowler had to file for bankruptcy.
NFL legend Bernie Kosar made millions through various business ventures. But when he declared bankruptcy in 2009, he had just $44 left in his checking account.
Ultimately, Michael Jordan stands on one end of the spectrum as a retired athlete set for life. Thanks to smart investments—especially his deal with Nike—he can rest comfortably knowing he never has to worry about money again. That, unfortunately, isn’t the case for everyone who once made a living through pro sports.
Swoopes lands on her feet
After becoming a star, paving the way for women in basketball, and enduring financial hardships, Swoopes found a successful path forward.
She spent time as an assistant high school coach before becoming the head coach at Loyola University Chicago in 2013. After her run there, Swoopes went back to her alma mater, Texas Tech, as an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team.
More recently, Swoopes co-founded a non profit organization called Back to Our Roots. According to the organization’s website, its mission is to empower and educate today’s youth to believe in themselves through farming, gardening, goal setting, sports, and exploring different cultures.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.
[Correction: This article was updated with information about Sheryl Swoopes’ post-playing career and endeavors.]