Anybody remember Johnathan Bender? Former High School to NBA leaper that never really panned out in the big show? It’s OK; nobody will fault you if you don’t remember his story. I had to go look up his career page just to remember who drafted him, and how much time he actually spent in the NBA.
Bender was drafted by Pacers in 1999 (via trade from the Raptors) and spent parts of seven seasons with the team before leaving the NBA for three seasons. He attempted a short comeback with the Knicks in 2009, but only played an average of 12 minutes in 25 games.
Of course, his career was derailed pretty early on, as knee injuries took their toll on someone renowned for his jumping ability. But give the kid credit – he could have become one of the many stories we’ve all heard about former athletes who have nothing to fall back on when their careers are suddenly over. But Bender was apparently paying attention during all of those hours spent in the trainers room and in workout or physical therapy sessions. In fact, he was paying such close attention, that he has now invented a new training device for recovery from knee injuries; a topic he has plenty of experience and expertise in.
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.
And it appears that the device just might actually work, and work well. After his initial retirement from the NBA, Bender was advised by doctors that he should never try to play again. But he spent years rehabbing, and using his own device. When he returned to the Knicks in the 2009/10 season, it was in no small part due to the strength he had gained from using his own product:
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.
As someone who has suffered from years of knee injuries, this is pretty intriguing. I’m not thinking about making an NBA team anytime soon – my jump shot has really fallen off in the past ten years, mostly due to the fact that I can’t jump anymore – but strengthening the legs and muscles around the knees is something I think most people over the age of 30 can appreciate.
Former Pacer invents device to increase leg strength (Indianapolis Business Journal)
JB Intensive Homepage (JB Intensive)