Former First Round Pick Jonathan Bender Invents Knee Strengthening Device
If anyone knows about knee injuries, it's former Indiana Pacer Jonathan Bender.
HoopsVibe Very Quick Call: Bender's story is a great example of turning a negative situation into a positive, no matter how unlikely.
In 1999, Jonathan Bender had the basketball world at his feet. As an 18 year old, the seven foot, 240 pound Bender was the most sought after high school basketball player in the country. His mix of size, athleticism and shooting touch was like nothing anyone had ever seen.
That same year, Bender dropped 31 points in the McDonald's All-America game, breaking Michael Jordan's scoring record in the process.
The performance got NBA scouts drooling, so Bender skipped college and went directly to the NBA, where the Raptors selected him with the fifth overall pick and then traded him to the Pacers for Antonio Davis. The Pacers thought they had located the face of the franchise for the next decade, at least.
Bender had a solid first season in the pros, becoming the first high school player to score double figures in his first NBA game. He participated in the 2001 slam dunk contest and was easing his way into being the face of the franchise.
In 2003, he began to have persistent knee problems and only played in 30 games over three years. In 2006 he retired at age 25. After retiring, he had an idea one day while sitting at a park, watching people run. From the Indianapolis Business Journal:
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.
Over the ensuing three years, Bender refined his concept, using it to heal his own knees. Then in 2009 he secured a tryout with the Knicks, made the team and in the process Knicks doctors said he had the strongest "lower extremities on the team."
“When I went there, I was proving a point to myself,” Bender said. “I wanted to prove my product worked.”
After three years out of the league, Bender put together a solid season, then retired again to focus on his invention. “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.”
The JB Intensive Trainer is now available for public consumption. And Jonathon Bender is as proud of that, maybe moreso, than his NBA career.
“I don’t want them (friends and family) 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.”