Jonathan Bender RumorsAll NBA Players
Height: 7-0 / 2.13
Weight:218 lbs. / 99.3 kg.
Height: 7-0 / 2.13
Weight:218 lbs. / 99.3 kg.
Bender said he began wearing the instrument during his playing days, allowing for his comeback with the Knicks, and the 33-year-old is a shining example of a successful post-NBA life, despite never reaching his on-court potential. The key to his success, Bender said, was preparation. Unlike a litter of prep-to-pros prospects anticipating a 15-year career, Bender said he began to save and invest his money during his early years with the Indiana Pacers after being a first-round pick in 1999. “I would see other business guys and the way they would carry themselves and they were just very interesting,” he said. “The whole business atmosphere was very interesting. When you really dig into the root of what we have going on as far as athletes, there’s a shelf life. We’re not going to be able to produce for the long run. Someday it was going to stop and I knew that at an early age. And I knew I wasn’t a financial wizard.”
While players such as Antoine Walker, Allen Iverson, and Kenny Anderson have blown NBA fortunes, Bender delved into the business world with much the same vigor as the basketball court, and has turned into a financial maven, earning millions on his business ventures. Bender earned $30 million during his NBA career but has become the model for post-career prosperity by developing his own back apparatus designed to help joint pain in the shoulders, knees, and back, and rehabilitate chronic soreness.
An inventor’s mind with a salesman’s drive, Bender walked into a Relax the Back store in Sugarland, Tex., one afternoon and met the manager, who told him he suffered from the lower-back condition sciatica. “Try this out,” Bender told him, confidently handing him his MedPro. It didn’t take long. The manager, so startled by its effectiveness, bought one on the spot. “He told me it eased his pain between 60 and 70 percent,” Bender says.
Bender has partnered with Relax the Back and is now selling his MedPro (retail: $199) off his own website. The byproduct of Bender’s imaginative mind that day in a Houston park has spawned a company — JB3 Enterprises — and a product that has propelled revenue growth of 40 percent month-over-month since December. He aims for more. While the current MedPro model has found a home among baby boomers (Bender himself sold 300 units his first two months), he hopes to soon polish off a model designed for serious athletes.
Similar stories soon followed. One elderly man who, after a nasty motorcycle accident, hadn’t been able to walk up stairs in 20 years. That was until he tried Bender’s product. “The best part of all of this is seeing his passion,” says Bernice, now Bender’s wife. “He’s not wishing he was still playing basketball. More than anything, he loves helping people, like that old man who had some of the same pain he did.”
31 Jan 14
Today, the JB Intensive Trainer sells for $130 on his website. It’s been a popular buy among fitness and physical therapy gurus, who praise the product as innovative. Most people wouldn’t expect this kind of ingenuity from a big-time athlete who never went to college, but for Bender, this is par for the course. “As athletes, we don’t really get the chance to use our brains within life until we retire,” he said. Bender would return to the NBA in 2010 for a brief cameo with the Knicks before permanently calling it a career to focus on his business. He said part of the reason for his comeback was to prove to himself that his product worked. “God gave me a brain and some creativity,” he said.
As he sat on the park bench that afternoon, Bender focused on the way people moved, and how they shifted their weight to keep balance. All of a sudden, it hit him. “I thought if you added a band to the back of their leg, I didn’t know exactly what it would do, but I knew it would add some resistance,” he said.
He drove past Simon’s house and marveled at the way the billionaire lived. “He had an 18-hole golf course in his front yard,” Bender recalls. “I was just amazed at how this guy functioned.” So, he did some research, reading about Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan and the like. “I wanted to get into their mentality,” Bender said.
Unlike the stereotypical professional athlete (“we’ve been raised not to really use our brains,” he says), Bender had always been a deep thinker. He remembers an epiphany he had while sitting on another bench, at the Pacers game in 2005. He looked over at then-owner Mel Simon, in one of the few games the billionaire attended, and started to wonder how the mall construction magnate had gotten there. “Those guys,” Bender says, speaking of NBA owners, “I always thought owning the team was their big business. But when I did some investigating, I realized this was just a side thing to them. It was like their board game,” he said.
Nauman, a professor in mechanical and biomedical engineering, called it “one of the more intriguing devices” he’d seen. “The product is completely counterintuitive,” Nauman said. “At first examination, it would appear to put more force across the knees, but because of the way it’s engineered, it actually takes pressure off the knees by evening out the load and making the legs work the way they’re supposed to work.”
Even after signing a four-year, $28.5 million contract following the 2001-2002 season, Bender couldn’t stop thinking about his “long-term future.” “He was always a quiet guy,” said Donnie Walsh, who was Pacers president when Bender was drafted. “After a while, you realize that behind all that quietness is an extremely thoughtful guy. And a very smart guy. You could see that in the way he played, but also in the way he handled himself off the court.” Bender was as eager to talk about business as basketball, Walsh noted. “I’m not surprised he’s gotten into business after his playing days,” Walsh said. “He always had the interest and drive.”
In April, Bender launched a company based on an odd-looking device he invented to help others avoid the knee troubles that put an end to his promising NBA career. Already, he’s brokered a deal with California-based Relax The Back retail chain, which sells wellness, fitness and medical items coast to coast. On that day sitting in front of Simon’s house, Bender, who passed on college to leap to the NBA, took his first business course. And it wasn’t just Simon’s riches that fascinated the teen. There was something else.
Mississippi native and former NBA star Jonathan Bender is encouraging people to show compassion for those struggling in these tough economic times. According to the Labor Department, applications for unemployment benefits rose by 10,000 last week which officials say is a sign that layoffs are rising and the job market is weak. Bender and Feed the Children wanted to help South Mississippi families by holding a food giveaway. Volunteers loaded boxes into car after car. Behind every wheel was a story of a family facing hard times. Carolyn Warren said, “The economy. It’s hard. It’s hard out here. It’s hard for everybody and I know it’s hard for everybody. It’s hard for me that’s why I’m out here.” “I’m just the type of person that try to make it day to day. Disability. Disabled,” said Alex McAfee.