Mr. Potential is making a comeback.
After retiring at the ripe old age of 25 years old, Jonathan Bender is trying for one final hoorah in the NBA, according to ESPN's Anna K. Clemmons. Following the storyline of a Disney sports movie, Bender's career with the Indiana Pacers was cut short due to constant injuries, but now the seemingly old Bender, who is still only 28, is back and says he's healthier than ever.
The athletic 6-foot-11 forward retired during the middle the 2005-06 season. He played in only 237 games for the Pacers in seven years, but he used to wow teammates and employees of the Pacers organization by his athleticism that he showed in practices.
Unfortunately, knee injuries allowed only glimpses of that stellar play to show through in games. Bender said that he thought about returning before last season, but after some encouragement from cousin Morris Peterson and other family members, he decided to go for broke this offseason instead.
The ESPN story already links New York as a possible destination, a speculation purely based on his relationship with former Pacers GM and current Knicks chief Donnie Walsh. Bender claims his agents is in talks with several teams, but declined to say which ones. If you're interested in keeping tabs on Bender's experience, he will be posting weekly updates at www.rawskills.com. Here are some quotes from Bender:
"My potential is still enormous and I can still do a lot for a team. If it happens, then everything flows. And if it doesn't, at least I tried. I didn't want the windows to close on me. I wanted the opportunity to fight off the demons inside my head ... I read these articles that say, 'He's the top bust' or 'He's one of the guys who didn't live up to their potential.' I don't want to be 38 or 40 looking back thinking, 'I should've done this.'
You still have your moments because no one goes out there and doesn't feel anything. I feel a little something here and there but in the game, everyone runs on your legs so we're all going to have aches. There's nothing I can't bear."
Obviously, it's going to be a tough road for Bender to get a roster spot in the league again. I have to wish him the best of luck, but has a 28-year-old ever felt so old before? I couldn't believe he was only 28 when I read the article, and I wouldn't be surprised if his body couldn't believe it either. I'm sure some fans will speculate on a return to Indy, but that's highly unlikely to happen.
Again, the Disney storyline is compelling: A teen prodigy is derailed by injuries and is forced to retire at an early age; he spends his retirement doing boatloads of community service in New Orleans to help build houses after Hurrican Katrina; he attempts a comeback and scores the game-winning basket in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Sounds like a hit movie to me.