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Thread: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

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    Default Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Apologies if it's been posted, searched for it but couldn't find anything.

    http://www.ibj.com/former-pacer-inve.../article/42304

    Sitting in his car outside the home of billionaire Indiana Pacers co-owner Mel Simon, Jonathan Bender was thinking about the difference between “getting paid” and “developing a process to make money.”

    Bender, not far removed from being drafted into the NBA with the No. 5 overall pick in 1999, wasn’t an invited guest to Simon’s house that day. He merely rolled by to see how a successful businessman lived.

    He watched from a distance—on that day and others—and took note of what made the shopping mall magnate successful. The late Simon, Bender said, probably never even knew he was one of Bender’s role models.

    Wondering about Simon, his business dealings and lifestyle might seem an odd thought for a teenager who had recently signed a three-year, $7 million contract with the Pacers.

    What more could an 18-year-old want? After all, he was sitting in a shiny new Mercedes and had recently become the richest person from his hometown of Picayune, Miss.

    But those who know Bender best said that sense of wonderment is one of the factors that make him much more than a great basketball player.

    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.

    “He was self-made,” Bender said. “Down in Picayune, there aren’t many role models like that—people who have picked themselves up and created a process, a plan for the rest of their lives, and made a legacy to benefit others.”

    Benefitting others for Bender includes people in Indianapolis. While he and his company are based in Houston, the foundation he formed in 2007 provides children in Indianapolis, Picayune, New Orleans and Houston with skills to succeed in business and life.

    Life after basketball

    Long before his knees gave out, ending his seven-year career with the Pacers, Bender was thinking about life after basketball.

    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.”

    Tragic ending?

    To many NBA followers, Bender’s fairy tale ended tragically. So much promise on the court and so little to show for it. Seven years with the franchise averaging fewer than six points per game isn’t much for a guy once compared to Magic Johnson. Pacers officials still lament his unrealized potential.

    “If he hadn’t been hurt, he’d have been flat-out great,” Walsh said.

    But Bender insists he’s still penning the pages of his own masterpiece story. In most circles, that tale has gone mostly untold. Some people know Bender made an unlikely comeback in 2009, signing and playing for the New York Knicks.

    Most don’t know the story behind the comeback. And though the comeback was short-lived, with Bender exiting the NBA once and for all in 2010, the 32-year-old hopes the most important part of this drama is just beginning.

    “This is what I’ve been planning for,” Bender said. “Life after basketball.”

    Inspiration on a park bench

    After announcing his retirement from the Pacers in 2006, Bender was sitting in a Houston park watching people run and walk by when it hit him.

    In his mind, he could see a device that acted as an external hamstring, which could exercise the hips, glute and quad muscles without putting pressure on the knees.

    With duct tape, ankle weights, thick rubber bands and office binder clips he bought at an area drugstore, Bender made the prototype for what he now calls the JB Intensive Trainer. Bender invested a little more than $80,000 into his invention, which he now contracts to have made in China and sells for $130.

    As it turns out, Bender was doing more than sitting on a training table getting treatment during those years in Indiana. He was watching closely and listening, including to Dr. Dan Dyrek, a Boston physician who has worked on numerous Major League Baseball and NBA stars, including Pacers executive Larry Bird during his Boston Celtics playing days.

    “I watched and learned from what they did and what they said about things like injuries and muscle structure,” Bender said. “I soaked it all in.”

    Proving his point

    Over the next three years after that day in the park, Bender worked on his device, wearing it to strengthen his own legs. So impressed was Walsh, he decided while working in the New York Knicks front office to give Bender another tryout. There was no shortage of skeptics.

    “When I went there, I was proving a point to myself,” Bender said. “I wanted to prove my product worked.”

    Knicks doctors at the time said Bender had the strongest lower extremities on the team. Bender averaged nearly six points a game during his season in New York. It was a long way from an all-star-caliber season, but not bad for a guy medical experts said would never play again.

    Following the 2009-2010 season, Bender said he had offers to play in the NBA, but he opted to focus on his business endeavors.

    “Basketball didn’t mean as much to me as it once did,” Bender said. “I was on a different journey. I was consumed by my interests in being in business and desire to be an entrepreneur.”

    Looking back, Bender said, the journey was set in motion through his observations of Mel Simon.

    Bender had firsthand mentors that helped him along the way as well. The late Billy Ray Hobley, a former Harlem Globetrotter, helped train Bender in high school—physically and mentally. Later, Bender said, Robert Tanko, a Houston-based manufacturing and distribution business executive, took him under his wing.

    ‘More than a product’

    Tanko, Bender said, helped him learn that, in business, “there is no ceiling” to what can be achieved.

    “It’s easy being around nothing but other ball players and thinking that’s the top level of what you can achieve,” Bender said. “I wanted to do more.

    “I wanted to be more than a product. I wanted to have something to pass down beyond money. I wanted to pass down direction and wisdom,” added Bender, who has no children but is engaged to be married.

    There’s nothing more important to Bender than family and his faith. He talks at length about his many nieces and nephews and young cousins.

    “I don’t want them to look at me as a former NBA player who made some money and now my career is over,” Bender said. “I want to show them that there are other options to explore their talents and gifts.”

    Iron-clad work ethic

    It’s the “iron-clad work ethic” Bender developed as an athlete that has pushed him to success in business, said Bryan Davis, who has known Bender since elementary school.

    “His drive is just ridiculous sometimes,” said Davis, a commercial real estate agent in Atlanta. “He’s completely self-motivated.”

    That drive pushed the JB Intensive Trainer to market.

    “He put that thing in front of anyone and everyone he could,” Davis said.

    One of the people he put it in front of was Eric Nauman, director of Purdue University’s Human Injury Research and Regenerative Technologies Laboratory.

    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.”

    Nauman even authored a white paper on the product and is confident that articles he is writing about it will get published in various medical and academic journals.

    ‘I’ve failed a lot’

    Nauman was as taken by Bender as his product.

    “Jonathan has an amazing intuition and sometimes intuition is better than a calculator,” Nauman said. “Even if you tell him things should work a certain way, he continues to ask, ‘Why, why, why?’ He has an incredible drive to build a better mousetrap.”

    The JB Intensive Trainer is not his only—or last—business endeavor, Bender promised. He has interests in the oil and chemical industries.

    “I’m working on a few projects right now, but they’re under wraps,” he said.

    Sometimes, Davis said, it’s easy to forget Bender has no formal education beyond high school.

    “This is a guy who has had to learn a lot of things by doing,” he said. “One of the things I really admire about him is that he’s not afraid to make mistakes.”

    And yes, there have been mistakes.

    “At first, he was all over the place with his business ideas,” Davis said. “He had a record company, did concert promotions and dabbled in real estate. Finally, he learned that slow and steady wins the race.”

    Bender has few regrets about the path he’s taken—including bypassing college for the NBA.

    “I’ve failed a lot,” he said. “I’ve stubbed my toe here and run into a brick wall there. But nothing beats experience.”
    Pretty awesome story. When Walsh brought Bender to NYC I read stuff about how Bender'd been working on creating a rehab device on his own and just figured "yeah, ok, whatever." Lo and behold, he made one and it works, http://jbintensive.com just ask George Hill

    "When I first put on the JB Intensive Trainer, I quickly realized that by using them I would gain a strength advantage over my competition in the league"
    Seems like Bender was a lifetime ago but the guy's still only 32. Really glad to see him not go the way a lot of the guys that tried to skip college did.

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Good for him, had I made 30+ million by the time I was 26 I would be retired on the beach drinking beers and enjoying the ladies.

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Good for him, too bad for us he couldn't have invented that a little earlier.

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Always glad to hear good news about JB. He was my favorite player when we drafted him. I still remember the sickening feeling I had hearing he broke his wrist in that preseason game his rookie year. Young me was devastated
    Grown Man Ball

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    well always good to hear athletes that use their money to make more money for themselves, smart guy, and didnt he have a construction co. down there that helped build houses after Katrina?

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    It has always seemed that many Pacer fans have had hard feelings toward JB. I'm certainly disappointed he didn't become the KD type player I hoped when he was drafted / traded for. However, it is good to see he's doing something with the oppurtunities his physical talents provided. It would be very easy to be crushed by the weight of the expectations many had for him. But it sounds as if he's a man of high character, intelligence, and drive. What more could you want from a former Pacer?

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Still think he's the most talented Pacer ever, although maybe PG can contest that.

    I remember a ridiculous scoring outburst he had vs the Kings (I think) which made me say, "He is the one." I think he left that game due to injury, too.

    Really happy for him. Don't think he loved basketball as much as his current ventures, but there's nothing wrong with that. Great guy.

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Quote Originally Posted by SIR-LANCE-ALOT View Post
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    well always good to hear athletes that use their money to make more money for themselves, smart guy, and didnt he have a construction co. down there that helped build houses after Katrina?
    That's correct on the Katrina stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by rm1369 View Post
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    It has always seemed that many Pacer fans have had hard feelings toward JB. I'm certainly disappointed he didn't become the KD type player I hoped when he was drafted / traded for. However, it is good to see he's doing something with the oppurtunities his physical talents provided. It would be very easy to be crushed by the weight of the expectations many had for him. But it sounds as if he's a man of high character, intelligence, and drive. What more could you want from a former Pacer?
    It really makes no sense for Pacers fans to have bad feelings towards JB. He didn't live up to his potential because of injuries that were completely out of his hands. He never did anything other than try, unsuccessfully, to play ball.
    Grown Man Ball

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Glad to see he's been a success beyond the basketball court.

    I don't really like when people say things like "He would've been the next Kevin Garnett had he not been hurt though". To me, it seemed like while he had the physical attributes, his game seemed kind of robotic.

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Quote Originally Posted by PR07 View Post
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    Glad to see he's been a success beyond the basketball court.

    I don't really like when people say things like "He would've been the next Kevin Garnett had he not been hurt though". To me, it seemed like while he had the physical attributes, his game seemed kind of robotic.
    Early on, yeah. In his last healthy year, it seemed like he'd really turned the corner and was putting the pieces together. You could completely see him, ready to break out.
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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor



    In honor of ABAdays & well I'll just take the same stand he did.


    Basketball isn't played with computers, spreadsheets, and simulations. ChicagoJ 4/21/13

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    While there's always going to be a level of disappointment with him and understandably so I would've been more disappointed if he went the Allen Iverson route and just self destructed without basketball. He didn't and I'm happy for him.

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    I wonder how much money he has left? He sounds like a pleasant exception but i think most of these guys blow their NBA money pretty quick.
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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Thanks for the story Heisenberg. As far as his playing ability, that guy sucked in the NBA. It could have been because he needed more time to season, maybe it was the injuries, or perhaps that we was no bigger around than a cigar. I mean that guy was so thin he couldn't use the automatic door at a Target.

    Greg Oden, in my opinion, is a terrific player that was beset by injuries. Jon Bender was a huge unknown. Unrealized potential in the NBA is about as common as a pimple addled teen. He did have some good athleticism for sure, but at no point did I ever feel that he was about to arrive. I had lots of hopes, but his greatest coup was milking Donnie out of Millions... and then getting him to sign him again. And when he signed with Donnie in New York, that already proved he was the greatest salesman in the world.
    Last edited by brichard; 07-09-2013 at 11:12 PM. Reason: Credited Buck for the Story instead of Heisenberg.
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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Nice story on Jonathan Bender. Wonder if he was smoking a little herb while watching Herb while sitting in his car?

    Actually I think JB is/was a decent guy, but there might have been a reason he was really laid back.
    You know how hippos are made out to be sweet and silly, like big cows, but are actually extremely dangerous and can kill you with stunning brutality? The Pacers are the NBA's hippos....Matt Moore CBS Sports....

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    I remember reading this article a year or two back, I wonder if how much ROI he made on the product.

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    What blows me away is that he is still only 2 yrs older than Granger and actually a year younger
    than David West

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    The five players chosen immediately after Bender: Wally, Rip, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry.

    I'm bitter that we traded away an important piece on a team that ended up going to the NBA Finals, but the pain would have been smoothed over if we had drafted any of the above 5 players. Too bad we drafted the biggest bust in franchise history.

    Good story though.

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Quote Originally Posted by RWB View Post
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    Nice story on Jonathan Bender. Wonder if he was smoking a little herb while watching Herb while sitting in his car?

    Actually I think JB is/was a decent guy, but there might have been a reason he was really laid back.
    Is there any back story to this, or is it just a huge baseless assumption?
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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Did you guys read the testimonials?

    The last one seems to make no sense. She claims a normal day leaves no time for exercise or weight training but she is a high school gym teacher and girl's bball coach? What?

    My co-worker had the JB Intensive Trainer and told me to try it out. I loved wearing it so much that I never gave it back!! I do not want to take it off ever because I can feel it working with every step that I take. I wear the JB Intensive Trainer to work, I wear it to coach in the afternoons, I clean house in it, and I wear it when I play outside with my two little boys. A normal day in my shoes leaves no time for exercise or weight training. With the bands I am allowed to go on with my everyday activities, I just do the activities with the bands on. In about 2 weeks after wearing the JB Intensive Trainer my co-worker noticed a difference. After 4 weeks my oblivious husband noticed a difference. Five weeks after first trying the JB Intensive Trainer, I weighed myself just because I was curious and I had lost 17lbs!! That was with no changes in my life, just adding the JB Intensive Trainer!! I can not wait to see what kind of results I will see once I decide to start eating right!!
    Lacey Kennedy
    Physical Education Teacher/Girls Basketball Coach, Picayune High School, Picayune,Ms



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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Quote Originally Posted by Trader Joe View Post
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    The last one seems to make no sense. She claims a normal day leaves no time for exercise or weight training but she is a high school gym teacher and girl's bball coach? What?
    Most teachers and coaches I know have very little time for their own training because they have to be constantly supervising others.
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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Quote Originally Posted by BillS View Post
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    Most teachers and coaches I know have very little time for their own training because they have to be constantly supervising others.
    Maybe it was just my high school but our gym teachers worked out alongside us *shrug*

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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Quote Originally Posted by SMosley21 View Post
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    Is there any back story to this, or is it just a huge baseless assumption?
    A few old time PD posters know this but during the time Johnny B was with the team there were some stories concerning his use of cannabis. The main reason it was thought not to be baseless.... a high up employee on the governor's (MD) support team (who was a Pacer fan) kind of said as much.... off the record, in casual coversation with Red White & Blue. Others here could address the smoking and sitting in a car stories.
    Last edited by RWB; 07-10-2013 at 08:23 PM.
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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    Quote Originally Posted by RWB View Post
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    A few old time PD posters know this but during the time Johnny B was with the team there were some stories concerning his use of cannabis. The main reason it was thought not to be baseless.... a high up employee on the governor's (MD) support team (who was a Pacer fan) kind of said as much.... off the record, in casual coversation with Red White & Blue. Others here could address the smoking and sitting in a car stories.
    Got ya. I had never heard anything about that.
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    Default Re: Jonathan Bender: from washout to successful inventor

    My first thought upon reading this story: That's fantastic. Great for Jonathan Bender. Not to stray this whole thing off onto a tangent, but he obviously came to the NBA straight from high school, so he lacked a college education. He stuck around in the NBA long enough to absorb information and was aware enough of the inner workings of his own injury enough to create a product to help combat that. My hat's off to him. It's a not an easy thing to invent a product or have the savvy to get it to market. I have a ton of respect for him. I wish him the very best.

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