When talking about the wealthiest NBA players ever, you would usually think of guys such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, or Shaquille O’Neal. However, one guy that is in that company, despite being far from an NBA household name, is a former Milwaukee Buck, Junior Bridgeman.
Drafted in 1975 by the Lakers—he was traded to Milwaukee three weeks later—Bridgeman spent 12 seasons in the NBA, 10 of which he played for the Bucks. Despite not earning any individual or team accolades, the 6’5” forward had a solid career and was a consistent player for years, averaging 13.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 2.4 apg in 849 games played.
Bridgeman was a part of those ’80s Bucks teams that featured guys like Sidney Moncrief and Terry Cummings—they are considered to this day to be some of the best teams never to win a title.
During that time, Junior was making about $350,000 a year—his career earnings are estimated at around $4,200,000 million. So how did he manage to become a multimillionaire with a net worth of $600 million?
Junior would use the money he earned in the NBA and invest it into purchasing a Wendy’s restaurant, a well-known brand in today’s world. That would be the first step in building Bridgeman Foods, a corporation with the idea of owning multiple restaurants over the country.
Junior got Wendy’s when they weren’t nearly as big as they are today. That made the former Buck a multi-millionaire and eventually helped him build an empire.
Bridgeman owned about 250 Wendy’s and 120 Chilli’s restaurants around the country before selling them in 2016. He then got involved in various businesses, like becoming a bottler for the Coca-Cola company and getting into Sports Media—he bought Jet and Ebony, two companies that declared bankruptcy.
“Ebony kind of stood for Black excellence, showing people doing positive things that could benefit everyone,” Bridgeman said. “It just made you feel good knowing that’s where they’re publishing all the stories in the magazine.”
Only a few NBA players have a second act better than their basketball career. Bridgeman is the ultimate example of that.