Turning $350,000 Into $600 Million Business Empire, NBA Legend Who Helped KAJ’s Lakers Status Reveals $700K Truth About Teams

Published 10/13/2023, 12:10 PM EDT

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Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Shaquille O’Neal. These are the names that come to mind when thinking about the richest NBA players. But there is a former Milwaukee Bucks player who averaged 11 points in his 12-year career that belongs on this list. Even though he never earned over $350,000 a season during his time in the NBA, he climbed to fortune after his retirement.

During ‘Invest Fest 2023‘, Junior Bridgeman explained how a side hustle during his time in the NBA paved the way for him to amass 600 million dollars. Along with that, he went into detail about the stark contrast between the salaries of the players in the current NBA and back when he was playing.

Junior Bridgeman on NBA salary between the 1970s and 2023


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Junior Bridgeman was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975. Soon after, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Back when Junior Bridgeman was playing in the NBA, the total salary for 15 players and 3 coaches in a year was 1.8 million dollars.

USA Today via Reuters

That is just 700,000 more than the league minimum today for a player. The times have changed, and the NBA has become a global sport. With collaborations with bigger brands and signing new CBA deals, the money made by players over the years has changed drastically.


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To put things in perspective, in 1992, the salary cap was $14 million. But 10 years later, in 2002, it jumped to 40 million dollars. So the $40 million was for a whole team. Currently, in 2023, there will be 18 players in the league who make over $40 million by themselves.


But Bridgeman played his last season in the NBA in 1987. He never made over $350,000 in a season. Even with 65% of NBA players losing all their earnings within 5 years after retirement, Bridgeman went on to amass a net worth of 600 million dollars.


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Bridgeman made his fortune through his part-time job

Junior Bridgeman never made more than $350,000 in his career. He realized early on that he had to find a way to make money after his retirement from basketball to live comfortably. So during the offseason, Bridgeman worked at Wendy’s.

With the money he had, Bridgeman started buying Wendy’s franchises. By the time he retired, he had three Wendy’s to his name. He kept increasing the number of franchises he had for over 20 years, soon becoming the largest franchisee in the world. At one point, he owned over 300 restaurants, consisting of both Wendys and Chilis. Later, Junior sold all his fast-food franchises and purchased Coca-Cola bottling distribution centers in Canada. This left him with $600 million to his name, displaying his skills in entrepreneurship in his post-NBA days.


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Written by:

Rijin Varghese


One take at a time

Rijin is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He has been following the NBA for over a decade. He likes to learn about the nuances of sports, understand every player's contribution to a team, and also learn the logic behind player signings and team building.
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Edited by:

Caroline Joseph