Bender, whose once-promising NBA career was derailed by constant knee injuries and immaturity has found his second calling. That is in exercise equipment.
In April, Bender launched a company based on a piece of exercise equipment he developed to help him improve his lower body and leg strength without putting stress on his knees. Don't be surprised if you see this odd contraption in stores out in California soon, Bender has reached a deal to sell the device at the Relax the Back retail stores.
While Bender never reclaimed what turned out to be a disappointing career — the former fifth overall pick from 1999 played in parts of eight seasons from 2000-10 averaging 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game while fighting various knee issues — he claimed the device he invented helped him make a temporary NBA comeback in 2010 after sitting out the previous three seasons.
Bender told the Anthony Schoette of the Indianapolis Business Journal that the idea came to him while watching people run in a park in Houston to create a device that would act as an extra hamstring and work all the leg muscles without putting pressure on a person's knees.
Over the next three years after that day in the park, Bender worked on his device, wearing it to strengthen his own legs. So impressed was Walsh, he decided while working in the New York Knicks front office to give Bender another tryout. There was no shortage of skeptics.
“When I went there, I was proving a point to myself,” Bender said. “I wanted to prove my product worked.”
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.
For a guy with history of bad knees, even though his NBA career did not work out, that was some pretty high praise from Knicks brass. And it put Bender on this journey now to becoming something of a workout guru and entrepreneur.
Bender really did not want his basketball failures to mean he was a failure in life. This business venture looks to be the next phase for the former high school phenom.
Hopefully this will not be the last we see of Bender.