ASM Interview: Jonathan Bender, Former Basketball Star, Akright Records Founder - page 2

By Jeff Ferrantino on July 31, 2006

Jonathan BenderASM: Your NBA career was marred with injuries almost from the very beginning. What do you attribute all of your injury problems to?

Bender: A lot of is related to early in my life, like before high school and going through high school. We didn't really have any trainers or anything in high school. My high school coach was a strength and conditioning coach too, so we did a lot of stuff that may have not been good. It got us in shape, but it may have been bad on my bones at the time because I was growing so fast.

ASM: What made you finally decide to walk away from the game of basketball back in February?

Bender: After the third summer of coming back and going through the same thing, and just getting myself really excited, it was a mental drop, especially seeing the physical problems of my other knee. Seeing the MRIs and just seeing how my other knee was going down the same road as my left knee. I just thought, I think my health is a lot more important than this. I'd rather walk out than roll out.

ASM: It must be difficult knowing that you were never able to get healthy enough to realize your true potential. Are you at closure with basketball?

Bender: I have to see how it feels. Maybe I'll get back out on the court later on and try it and do some pick-up games. As of now, I haven't touched the ball. I'm resting and enjoying being able to think straight. Just having my mental back - that feels real good.

ASM: You sound very much at ease with your decision.

Bender: Right now, I feel good. I feel like I got in there, I had a chance to make some money and make something of myself and make a name for myself. It's just the beginning of life. It's a stepping stone. Now you just go on to the next challenge.

ASM: There's an article that was written that compared your career with Randy Livingston. The story talks about how Livingston was widely considered as the top high school player in the nation in 1993, but he opted to attend college instead of declaring for the NBA draft. He went on to suffer a serious knee injury before playing in his first collegiate game and his stock eventually went way down. Are you bothered that some people might think that you got your guaranteed money and maybe didn't deserve it?

Bender: I worked hard my whole career. Even before I got to the NBA, I had a crazy workout schedule. When I got to the NBA, I was dedicated to working on my knees and getting my quads and everything all strong. I never took much time off. It was a struggle for me. It was struggle more so mentally than even my physical problems.

ASM: Well, the league changed the rule in 2005 and a player must now be 19 and one year removed from high school in order to be eligible for the NBA draft. What do you think of the new rule?

Bender: They put an age limit on coming straight out of high school, but if you look at soccer, you've got them playing soccer at 14, a golf professional at 14, baseball is 18…I just don't understand it. I don't understand it at all.

ASM: When you reflect back on your playing career, are there are moments that stand out in particular?

Bender: The McDonald's game was a big game for me. During my NBA career, there really wasn't one game that really shined out among the rest of them.