Basketball great Kenny Anderson made over $60 million playing in the National Basketball Association, yet declared for bankruptcy protection in 2005. In the new film “Mr. Chibbs,” you learn the sometimes complicated reasons why, and get an intimate look at what his life is like now.
Considered the best high school guard in the country at Archbishop Molloy High School in New York in 1989, Anderson would go on to play two years at Georgia Tech before being the No. 2 overall pick by the New Jersey Nets in the 1991 NBA draft.
While earning millions in the NBA between 1991 and 2005, he gave money to the three women he had children with. He gave child support for his seven biological children. He gave money to friends who said they needed help to pay the rent. And he gave a lot of money to his mother.
“No one stole my money,” Anderson, now 46 years old, says in the film. “My mother, may she rest in peace, had a carefree life for 20 years. I spoiled my mother to death. I didn’t know how to say ‘no.’”
The documentary film is called “Mr. Chibbs” because it’s the nickname his mother gave him when he was a few minutes old.
When he was brought to his mother’s bed in the hospital, she reacted by saying “Cheeks!” upon seeing baby Kenny. But it sounded like “Chibbs!” because she was eating. And the nickname stuck throughout his life. “My mother was sarcastic,” he adds, saying that as he got older, “when I felt I was important, she would say, ‘All right, Mr. Chibbs.’”
It’s an apt name for the film, since her influence on him was so strong.
“There was a lot of craziness dealing with him,” DJ Spinderella says in the film. “Everything about him was his relationship with his mother.” She and Anderson dated and had a child together while he played for the New Jersey Nets and she was in the group Salt n’ Pepa in the early 90s.
See: Meet the NFL mom determined to stop her son’s finances from being sacked
His home life was difficult when he was a child. He was raised in a single-parent home by his mother and was once sexually abused by an older man in the neighborhood. And even though he was a star basketball player at a young age, he would spend as much time as he could at the gym and library so he could be in his bedroom as little as possible. That’s because he shared it with his mother and her boyfriend.
But she would become the most influential person in his life.
“I wanted to go to Syracuse University, but my mother went to visit Georgia Tech with me, and on the way home she said: You’re going to Georgia Tech. Coach Cremins will take care of you,” he says in the film.
When Anderson’s mother died in 2005, he made a pact with himself to stop playing in the NBA. “My mother saw my whole career. I ain’t playing basketball no more,” he says in the film, remembering what he went through in 2005. “I was so numb. It was just bad. Everything was bad. I was just numb,” he reflects in the film.
He’s learned a lot of life — and money — lessons since then.
“My lifestyle is simple now. My house and cars are paid for. You live and learn. I thank God I can have a comfortable life,” he told MarketWatch two days before the movie’s New York City premiere.
“I’m not reckless now. I’m very frugal now, like I should have been back then,” he added.
Barry Greenstein, who produced the movie and has known Anderson for many years, told MarketWatch, “The only person I’ve ever seen him buy a meal for is my daughter.” He also said he was recently in Atlantic City with Anderson and offered to give him some money to gamble with, “and he wouldn’t gamble one dime.”
Anderson, for all his spending and generosity, has always been reluctant to put his money toward anything he doesn’t understand. Even when he was making millions in the NBA, he was nervous about letting anyone invest his money, he told MarketWatch.
Also see: Veteran NFL players offer financial advice to rookies
He only has an inner circle of a couple of guys when it comes to money advice. The same guys he’s used since his NBA days. Back then, he said he didn’t listen to them. But now he does.
“My mother controlled me. I spoiled her. She didn’t understand about money.”
Also see: Financial advice from an NFL player whose mom demanded he give her $1 million
Even now, he is still waiting to invest his money. “It’s hard for me to hand over $100,000 for someone to invest.”
He now lives on some trust funds his lawyer set up for him years ago, and he will get his full NBA pension when he turns 50.
Why did he make the movie? “I was an All-Star, but hey, I’m human. I have problems also,” he told MarketWatch. “I was up on the platform. I was a celebrity. Maybe people will listen to me.” He added that if the film helps save even one or two troubled kids, it was worth it.
The movie will play at New York City’s IFC Center May 3-9, and will show in other cities afterward.