Social Entrepreneur – Humanitarian – Mentor – Author – Inventor – Professional Athlete
Jonathan Rene Bender, from Picayune, Mississippi, was one of the nation’s top-ranked high school basketball players earning the prestigious John R. Wooden MVP Award during the 1999 McDonald’s High School All-American Game. Pulling down 10 rebounds and scoring 31 points, Jonathan broke Michael Jordan’s scoring record set in 1981 and continues to reign as the game’s all-time leading scorer.
Selected fifth overall in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors, the 17-year old was acquired by the Indiana Pacers and went on to become the first high school player draftee to score in double figures in their NBA debut. Touted as the NBA’s next Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan, Jonathan was disappointedly pushed into an early exit from professional basketball after seven seasons of limited playing time due to chronic knee pain believed to be the result of an abnormal growth spurt.
Having faced adversity earlier in life, Jonathan accepted his new challenge head on and, through hard work and determination, gained a stronger sense of confidence. He quickly learned to apply what had made him successful on the court to life off the court and, having always marched to the beat of a different drummer (at 7’0”, he was proficient at all five basketball playing positions), Jonathan combined a genuine passion for helping others with his “avant-garde” approach to life to quickly become a force to be reckoned with off the court as well.
A self-made entrepreneur, Jonathan’s efforts began when he organized and funded a caravan of semi-trucks transporting non-perishable food, drinking water, clothing and emergency supplies from Indianapolis to the Gulf Region in 2005. Soon after, he established Jonathan Bender Enterprises (JBE) to help improve the housing situation for low-income families in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Purchasing 38 flood-damaged properties in New Orleans’ 9th Ward through his real estate company, J Davis Reality, another division of JBE, Kingdom Homes, restored each property installing hardwood floors, granite countertops, oak cabinets and energy efficient appliances. A third division, Blue Package Management, manages all JBE rental properties.
Since then, The Jonathan Bender Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, was founded to be able to work with students to help them identify their gifts, realize their passions, and explore choices available to lead a productive and successful life after graduating high school. Jonathan plans to expand his efforts into Picayune, Indianapolis, Houston, Atlanta, and New York in the near future.
After almost four years, on December 13, 2009, Jonathan signed with the NBA’s New York Knicks and made his official NBA comeback on December 18 against the L.A. Clippers, Jonathan clocked 14 minutes and made a favorable impression on sports fans and media worldwide with 9 points, 2 blocked shots, and 1 assist. He has since retired but on his own terms.
Jonathan has created a coaching and mentoring program in which he is “The Choices Coach” and works with high school athletes, college athletes and professional athletes to empower them with the knowledge, focus, accountability and training needed to achieve consistent results, stay on top of the game, anticipate unforeseen obstacles and apply strategy and skill acquisition to accomplish the desired goals.
Jonathan is an avid golfer, and enjoys playing pool and working out. He has a patent pending on JB3 fitness equipment he invented and largely credits for the rehabilitation of his knees and successful NBA comeback. Supported by research of the Purdue University Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, plans are to have Bender Bands available to the public in 2012.
Here are a few things people are saying about Jonathan Bender:
“Jonathan Bender is more talented than all these guys put together.” ~ Larry Bird
“He listens and he understands. I think he has an innate understanding of the game.” ~ Hall of Fame Coach Pete Newell
“I’m not sure that there was any limit to his potential.” ~ Indiana Coach Rick Carlisle
“I look at Jonathan Bender over the last couple of years and I see a guy who has worked his tail off and made unbelievable improvements.” ~ Celtics Coach John Carroll
“In the case of Jonathan Bender, we have a lot of faith in the player that he will become and has started to become…” ~ Pacers President Donnie Walsh
“Jonathan is one of the most driven individuals I have had the pleasure to know. He is a natural born innovator and is an extremely caring individual who is a great mentor and role model to others.” ~ Carlton Brown
“I feel very fortunate to know Jonathan as both a business partner and a friend. He has a very creative mind for new products, a kind heart for helping others, and most of all he has the highest level of integrity and follows through with his commitments. I highly recommend Jonathan for those of you that are fortunate enough to meet him and have an opportunity to work with him.” ~ Robert Tanko
“I know Jonathan on a personal level and played with him at Picayune Memorial High School. Even with his success he remains very approachable and eager to help. He treated his teammates and coaches with respect; he is very honest, trustworthy and is an innovative man that is succeeding after the game through his own methods. These reasons are why I went through the program. The process of the Choices Program allowed me to identify gifts and passions that I did not realize I had. I am very thankful for all Jonathan has helped me with and continues to help me with. I definitely recommend him and The Choices Coach program.” ~ Jonathan Patton
To contact Jonathan for appearances or involvement, please email Info@JonathanBender.com