Ulysses Lee "Junior" Bridgeman is a former NBA player you may have never heard of.
He attended Washington High School, where he led his basketball team to a 29-0 record and an Indiana state high school basketball championship.
Bridgeman would attend the University of Louisville, where he'd be named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975.
Bridgeman, as a junior, led the University of Louisville to the 1974 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament.
As a senior, he led his school to the Final Four of the 1975 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, but they'd lose to UCLA, the eventual NCAA Champion, 75–74, in the National Semi-Final.
In the 1975 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Bridgeman with the 8th pick. The Lakers wouldn't keep Bridgeman for long as they had their eyes on a certain particular player…
Three weeks after the draft, Bridgeman was involved in a trade that saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar come to Los Angeles from Milwaukee.
Yes, Bridgeman would play for the Bucks. He'd play as a sixth man for most of his career.
The Sixth Man of the Year Award was first given out in the 1982–83 NBA season, which was Bridgeman's eighth season.
Many people believe if the award was given out earlier that Bridgeman would've won it a few times.
Bridgeman played nine seasons with the Bucks before being traded to Los Angeles to play for the Clippers.
He played two years in LA before returning to Milwaukee to play one more season. Bridgeman retired after the 1986-87 season. He played in 849 games, averaging 13.6 points per game.
While Bridgeman was playing, he also served as the president of the National Basketball Players Association.
He was the president from 1985 to 1988 before resigning after a controversy known as the Junior Bridgeman antitrust lawsuit.
In this lawsuit, NBA players indicted the NBA for violation of antitrust laws by compensating to eschew matching offers for free agents.
The NBA also abused the salary cap that led to a decrease in the total players' gross revenues from 61 percent to 54 percent from the 1983-84 NBA season.
Becoming A Business Mogul
While playing in the NBA, Junior Bridgeman was already planning on a life after basketball. During the offseason, most players go on luxury vacations, or they like to sit around and relax.
Bridgeman did neither of these. His plan for the future was being set in motion. He'd spend his offseason working at a Wendy’s restaurant.
No, Bridgeman wasn't hurting for money, he wanted to learn the business model of the fast-food chain with the hopes of owning his own in the future.
On top of working at a Wendy’s during the offseason, Bridgeman also attended law school. Bridgeman purchased three Wendy’s while playing in the NBA.
“So since I was looking to invest in something, I figured food would be the safest investment,” Bridgeman said.
After retiring, Bridgeman created Bridgeman Foods II, Inc. He invested in over 100 various Wendy's and Chili's restaurants, growing his fortune.
In 2016, Bridgeman's fortune grew larger when he sold every restaurant he owned. In 2017, Bridgeman became a bottler for The Coca-Cola Company.
He took it a step further in 2018 when he signed a letter of intent to buy bottling operations for Coca-Cola in all of Canada.
Bridgeman continued to grow his portfolio in December 2020 when his company, Bridgeman Sports and Media, bought the magazines Ebony and Jet for $14 million, after the magazines declared bankruptcy.
Bridgeman has been honored over the years for the incredible work he's done in the business world and for his solid play on the basketball court.
-2019: Bridgeman received the Gold Cup award from Greater Louisville Inc. in honor of his business contributions and community involvement
-2014, Bridgeman was inducted into the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame
-2009, Bridgeman was inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame
-2007, Bridgeman was inducted into the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame
-1999, Bridgeman was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame
-1988, the Milwaukee Bucks retired Bridgeman's number 2 jersey
In 2008, the PGA of America appointed Bridgeman to serve on the PGA Board of Directors.
“The PGA of America proudly welcomes Junior Bridgeman to the PGA Board of Directors,” said PGA of America President Brian Whitcomb. “Junior’s impressive business acumen which followed an outstanding career in professional sports has enabled him to be a respected leader and someone whom our Association may call upon to support and to assist in building participation in the game and the business of golf.”
On top of serving on the board of the PGA, The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame appointed Bridgeman to the board of governors in 2010.
If these achievements seem impressive (which they are), this isn't all. It seems like every company wants Bridgeman to serve on their board.
Churchill Downs Inc. appointed Bridgeman to the company's board of directors in 2012.
Then in 2016-2017, the University of Louisville appointed Bridgeman to the Board of Trustees. He also serves as a member of the Simmons College of Kentucky Board of Trustees.
Bridgeman's highest salary for one NBA season was $350,000. He earned a total of $4,200,000 for his NBA career.
This isn't bad, but since his retirement from the league, from all his business endeavors, Bridgeman's net worth has grown to $600 million.
This makes him the second-richest NBA/retired player behind Michael Jordan and the seventh-richest athlete/retired in the world.
Not bad for a former sixth man. It goes to show, basketball players can do more than just shut up and dribble.