Jonathan Bender was the number-five overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors and he was immediately traded to the Indiana Pacers where he spent seven seasons before having to retire prematurely due to chronic knee pain. But unlike most athletes, his premature retirement wasn’t the end, it was the beginning of a new career as a successful businessman and entrepreneur. He joined Chad on Flight 750 Tuesday to talk about his career in and since the NBA.
Bender says he knew early on in his NBA career that he would have to find a way to pay the bills once basketball was over. And he was going to make sure he did not become another broke athlete when he retired.
“As us, I think it gets to a point where you understand ‘Hey, we’re only employees.’ This is not a business even though they say we are a business. Our product is our talent and our bodies’ wear out. So I think it’s very important to create some other type of process and path to wealth and great success.”
Bender also discussed what it takes for an athlete to realize that he or she must give up their sport.
“Mentally, you have to just understand that there’s other things that you can be successful at out there in the world and the NBA is not the top tier…There’s definitely levels out there. That’s what I had to explore because I’m a very competitive guy. So my competitiveness kind of redirected from the other guys on the court to some of the guys that were pulling the strings.”
And Bender also talked about what he would say if he were to talk to an athlete that is struggling through a sport with a debilitating injury.
“I would say ‘Look out 30 years and see what you want to be. The NBA is not the biggest thing. It’s a company. Your talent is basically intellectual property to license out and you can create other things. You’re still a brand. People know you, so you’ll have resources. Just set goals and push forward and don’t let anyone say you can’t do it.”
Take a listen to the great interview and be sure to check our his website and be sure to follow him on twitter at @JonathanBender9.