Jonathan Bender never had the NBA career he had hoped for after forgoing college to enter the draft as a high-school senior. But that didn't mean he wasn't going to try and make a difference in people's lives, and he's done just that with the introduction of his new product to relieve back and knee pain.
Bender was taken with the fifth overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft after his "handlers" thought it would be best for him to skip college and enter the draft as a 7-footer from Mississippi. With a rare combination of athleticism, outside shooting and inside skills he seemed destined for greatness, but numerous knee injuries throughout his career halted what would have been an otherwise promising career. He played seven seasons with the Pacers, averaging 5.6 points and 2.2 rebounds but missed 337 of a possible 754 games.
He would finish the 2005-06 season playing in just two games, and in 2009 made one final push to get back to the NBA. He played in 25 games with the New York Knicks, averaging 4.7 points in 11.7 minutes per game. So while his professional career was labeled a bust, his business career was just beginning.
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Wanting to help athletes stay healthy in a manner he could not, Bender began a different line of thinking.
"How could I help my generation? I wanted to be a guy that could get on the path to building some sort of wealth, some sort of legacy and understanding and creating my own process," he told David Kaplan on Friday's SportsTalk Live. "Thinking of ways I could create something to bring to this world to help people and help myself."
Realizing that basketball was just a side-gig for many of the league's owners, and realizing there was more to life than the game, Bender took a business approach to creating and releasing his new product, the JB Intensive Trainer, a product which strengthens muscles around the inflicted areas to decrease pain.
"We're helping a bunch of people with back, knee, hip pain, it's been amazing," Bender said. "
And when asked if he had any advice to give or thoughts on Derrick Rose, who sat all of last season recovering from a torn ACL, Bender did not mince words.
"That was the smartest decision ever. I was sitting at home clenching, saying to myself, 'I don't want to see this kid out there just because everybody's pressing him," Bender said. "It's even worse when you're mentally unprepared, and you may be physically prepared. He could have went out there and really screwed up bad."
Bender also gave his insight and opinion on the NBA requiring a player to attend one year or college (or an overseas equivalent) before entering the NBA draft. Bender, who went straight from high school to the pros, says the one-year minimum does not make all that much of a difference for talented players who decide to leave early.
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"It doesn't matter. I think it's an NCAA thing, where they want to have those elite players there for that market for at least one year before they skip off to the NBA. That's how it has to happen or it's really gonna kill the college game."
Rose left Memphis after one season.
Lastly, Bender approached the touchy subject of whether collegiate athletes should be paid.
"I mean, the coaches get paid," he said, laughing. "You look at it as a business, and they're out there selling merchandise and the players are getting scholarships but at the same time it's a lot of time out of their schedule to go to school and to be working. It's a job."