Sports Law Blog
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Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Catching Up With "Failed" Prep-to-Pro Jonathan Bender
A couple of years ago, I blogged on the retirement of Jonathan Bender from the NBA ("Not Being Randy Livingston: The Jonathan Bender Story"). Bender, routinely cited as a failed high schooler-turned-NBA player, retired at age 25, due to chronic knee problems. During his NBA career, which spanned six seasons after being the 5th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft out of Picayune (Mississippi) Memorial High School, Bender earned about $30 million.
Anna Katherine Clemmons of ESPN The Magazine recently caught up with Bender. Since retiring from the league, Bender has become a different kind of player -- one instrumental in the rebuilding of New Orleans. He has also wisely invested the money he earned and has become a successful businessman. Here is an excerpt from Anna's excellent article:
* * *Along with his entrepreneurial mind, Bender felt compelled to give back, one of the many lessons [father-figure] Billy Ray Hobley had taught him. Bender had bought a home in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner in 1999, in part to be closer to Hobley (who died of a heart attack in 2002) and his grandmother, Cora, who still lived in Picayune.
Returning to New Orleans four years later, Bender began his Foundation, which focuses on providing disadvantaged children the tools to address their educational, health and social needs.
When Bender's Foundation adopted Joseph S. Maggiore Elementary School, Bender bought and distributed Christmas presents to the 430 students. But he also plans to establish an after-school program he named "Being Busy and Cool After School," where students will have 30 minutes of tutoring followed by lectures from professionals discussing their careers. Bender offered up the example of glass blowers, saying, "Most of these kids don't know that there's a career in blowing glass. They may say, 'I like that, that's what I want to do.' I want to help them identify their passion and work toward it."
The Foundation is just one of Bender's many endeavors. Some of his many others include: an Italian wine imports company; investment in several high-end real estate projects; inventing and seeking a patent on a fitness device he's calling Bender Bands; owning part of an island and some commerical property in the Caribbean; owning Studio 5504, a New Orleans recording facility; and running free basketball clinics for teens in the New Orleans region. He wants to start a mentor program for NBA rookies, and he's developing a reality show, "Brand New Orleans," based on his projects.
* * *For the rest of the article, click here. For a law review article I wrote a few years back on high schoolers and the NBA, check out "Illegal Defense: The Irrational Economics of Banning High School Players from the NBA Draft."