By Jay Busbee
When money rolls in, tragedy soon follows.
Over the course of his NBA career, Lorenzen Wright earned an estimated $55.2 million in salary. He died in 2010, shot to death, his body left to decompose in the woods southeast of Memphis.
But the battle over what remains of his estate continues. Sherra Robinson Wright, whose divorce from Wright was finalized only a few months before his death, received a $1 million life insurance settlement 14 months after his passing. And according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, it took her only 10 months to spend $973,000 of that.
Spending, as documented by the Commercial Appeal, included:
• $32,000 for a Cadillac Escalade
• $26,000 for a Lexus
• $69,000 on furniture
• $11,750 for a New York trip
• $339,000 for purchase and improvement to a new home
• $7,100 for a pool deposit
• $5,000 for lawn equipment
• $34,000 on legal fees
At issue, other family members contend, is that the proceeds were designated to support the couple’s six children. The spending report, filed in September but only just now disclosed publicly, caused a judge to begin investigation of the living conditions of Wright’s children. The judge also routed other money, the NBA’s $184,000 in death benefits, to Lorenzen Wright’s father Herb to benefit the children. Those assets are, at present, frozen.
However, Sherra Wright says the family remains financially sound, with $1.4 million in “assets on hand.” Much of that is tied up in the new house and three Arkansas investment properties.
There is also significant discord, according to the court filings, between Herb Wright and Sherra Wright, who “testified Lorenzen Wright distrusted his father and as a result removed his father from any control over his accounts and finances.”
At the time of his death, Wright was operating under a child support order requiring him to pay $16,650 a month in child support and another $10,000 a month in alimony, for a total of $319,000 a year. That plan was concocted in 2009, in what would be the last year of Wright’s NBA career. There was no amended plan filed after Wright left the NBA and his income dramatically declined.
It’s tough to overstate the tragedy of Wright’s fall. After Anfernee Hardaway, he was easily the most celebrated player in the basketball-rich city of Memphis. Like Hardaway, he was a high school legend turned Memphis Tiger, and like Hardaway he led the Tigers to the NCAA tournament and later became a lottery pick. He was never able to make a significant impact in the pros, though with $55 million in career earnings, “significant” is by definition a relative term. He deserved better than his tragic end, and the fact that acrimony from his passing continues to tear his family apart is an ongoing shame.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.