Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman went from playing professional basketball to becoming a media mogul and owner of two magazines that have been synonymous with Black culture and the Black experience.
Bridgeman, who played in the NBA for 12 years from 1975 until 1987, not only owns a highly successful restaurant company but is also the owner of Ebony and Jet magazines.
Here are seven things to know about the athlete-turned-mogul.
Born in East Chicago, Indiana, Bridgeman was a standout high school basketball player who went on to play for the University of Louisville. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1975 NBA draft in the 1st Round (No. 8 overall pick). But almost three weeks after the draft, he was involved in a landmark trade. He was traded by the Lakers along with David Meyers, Elmore Smith, and Brian Winters to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley.
Bridgeman spent nine seasons in Milwaukee and was traded by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1984. After spending two years in Los Angeles, he returned to Milwaukee for one more season before retiring in 1987. He played in 711 games for the Bucks, still the most in franchise history.
In December 2020, Bridgeman, through his company Bridgeman Sports and Media, bought Ebony and Jet for $14 million after the magazines declared bankruptcy earlier in the year.
Bridgeman said he thought he could make the magazine profitable again with “the right ideas and the right execution,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Ebony magazine was forced into bankruptcy in July by creditors who said it “is generally not paying its debts as they become due,” according to petitions by the creditors. The company had defaulted on more than $10 million in loans, Courier-Journal reported in December 2020. The magazine was founded by businessman John H. Johnson and has been in publication for more than 75 years. Its first issue was published in 1945.
Before he bought Ebony and Jet, Bridgeman attempted to buy Sports Illustrated in 2019, but it was sold for $110 million to Authentic Brands Group, The Shadow League
He is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity
The Milwaukee Bucks retired his No. 2 jersey in 1988.
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As a player, Bridgeman made about $350,000 in his final season, and he turned it into a multimillion-dollar company. He launched Bridgeman Foods in 1987.
Following his retirement from the NBA, the ex-baller invested in a Wendy’s franchise and eventually became the owner of more than 160 Wendy’s and 120 Chili’s restaurants before cashing out in 2016. His net worth is estimated to be around $600 million, The Shadow League reported.
Bridgeman is listed as the second wealthiest NBA player behind none other than Michael Jordan, Slam reported.
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