December 13, 2009: Knicks sign Jonathan Bender to an NBA contract
Donnie Walsh went into his rolodex to sign former Indiana Pacers forward Jonathan Bender. It was Walsh, himself, who traded Antonio Davis to the Toronto Pacers for the rights to Bender, picked 5th overall in the 1999 Draft.
In a feel-good story, Bender played in 25 games for the Knicks. He scored 20 points in his first two games for the team and later scored a season high 16 points in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. His season was cut short in March with a broken finger and eventually retired for good afterwards.
Lauded for his size, skills, and athleticism, Bender entered his rookie season with expectations mirroring Kevin Garnett & Kobe Bryant. He became the first player drafted out of high school to score in double figures in his NBA debut. He had the ability to dunk with ferocity, dagger threes without hesitation, and block shots with authority.
Chronic knee injuries forced Bender into early retirement in 2006. After playing in 78 games during the 2001-02 season, Bender played a combined 76 games in the next 4 seasons.
Bender spent part of his first initial retirement years (2006-09) building homes for families impacted by Hurricane Katrina. He also continued his rehabilitation and worked on a prototype to a product hat would provide relief to his chronic pain. The product launched in 2013 as the JB Intensive Trainer.1