|Born||September 17, 1953|
East Chicago, Indiana
|Listed height||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Listed weight||210 lb (95 kg)|
|High school||Washington (East Chicago, Indiana)|
|NBA draft||1975 / Round: 1 / Pick: 8th overall|
|Selected by the Los Angeles Lakers|
|Position||Small forward / Shooting guard|
|1984–1986||Los Angeles Clippers|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Points||11,517 (13.6 ppg)|
|Rebounds||2,995 (3.5 rpg)|
|Assists||2,066 (2.4 apg)|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Ulysses Lee "Junior" Bridgeman (born September 17, 1953) is an American businessman and former professional basketball player. Bridgeman played in the National Basketball League (NBA) for twelve years from 1975 until 1987, beginning with the Milwaukee Bucks. Bridgeman is the current owner of Ebony and Jet magazines. Despite never making more than $350,000 a season during his NBA career, Bridgeman has a net worth of over $600,000,000, making him one of the wealthiest former athletes in the world.
High school career
Born in East Chicago, Indiana, Bridgeman was a member of the 1971 Washington High School Senators basketball team, which went undefeated (29-0) and won the Indiana state high school basketball championship. Among his teammates were his brother Sam, Pete Trgovich (who played at UCLA) and Tim Stoddard (N.C. State), who would go on to have success as a Major League Baseball pitcher.
A 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall guard/forward, Bridgeman attended the University of Louisville, playing under Coach Denny Crum. Bridgeman was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975. Bridgeman led the Louisville Cardinals to the 1974 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament as a junior. As a senior, he led the Cardinals to the Final Four of the 1975 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, where they lost the eventual NCAA Champion UCLA 75–74 in the National Semi-Final. In his collegiate career at Louisville, Bridgeman averaged 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 87 career games.
Bridgeman was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1975 NBA draft in the 1st Round (#8 overall pick). On June 16, 1975, almost three weeks after the draft, Bridgeman was involved in a landmark trade. Bridgeman was traded by the Los Angeles Lakers with David Meyers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley. As a rookie with Milwaukee in 1975-1976 under coach Larry Costello, Bridgeman averaged 8.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists. In 1976–1977, Costello was fired by Milwaukee after a 3–15 start and assistant coach Don Nelson, who had been a player for the 1976 NBA champion Boston Celtics the year before, was hired as coach. Bridgeman improved, averaging 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists. On December 15, 1976, Bridgeman scored a career-high 41 points in a 129–125 loss against Boston. Nelson and Bridgeman would remain together for the next eight seasons.
Bridgeman was utilized by coach Nelson as a complement to teammates Bob Dandridge, Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief, Bob Lanier, Quinn Buckner, Myers, Winters and Mickey Johnson during his Milwaukee tenure, as the Bucks had powerful teams, winning several division titles (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984).
On April 5, 1981, Bridgeman scored a career playoff-high 32 points and recorded 6 assists in a Game 1 Eastern Conference Semifinals loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. After nine seasons in Milwaukee, on September 29, 1984, Bridgeman was traded by the Milwaukee Bucks with Harvey Catchings, Marques Johnson and cash to the Los Angeles Clippers for Terry Cummings, Craig Hodges and Ricky Pierce. On January 29, 1985, Bridgeman scored 30 points in a loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers. 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 his 12-year NBA career, Bridgeman scored 11,517 total points.
He was a sixth man for most of his career, averaging double figures in scoring for nine consecutive seasons. Some fans believe that if the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award was created before the 1982–83 season, Bridgeman may have won it multiple times. In his career with the Milwaukee Bucks (1975-1984, 1986–1987) and the Los Angeles Clippers (1984-1986), Bridgeman played in 849 total NBA games, averaging 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists, shooting 47% from the floor and 84% from the line.
Bridgeman also served as the president of the National Basketball Players association from 1985 to 1988. Bridgeman resigned after the 1988 CBA and the controversy of the Junior Bridgeman antitrust lawsuit, which NBA players indicted the NBA of violation of antitrust laws by compensating to eschew from matching offers for free agents and abuse of the salary cap that lead to a decreased of the total players' gross revenues from 61 percent to 54 percent from the 1983-84 season.
During the off-seasons of his playing career, Bridgeman worked and learned the business model of Wendy's fast food restaurant franchise. After retiring from the NBA, he invested in the franchise and eventually owned over 100 various Wendy's and Chili's restaurants, before selling in 2016. As President and CEO of Bridgeman Foods Inc, in 2017, Bridgeman became a bottler for The Coca-Cola Company, and in 2018, he signed a letter of intent to buy bottling operations in Canada. In December 2020, Bridgeman, via Bridgeman Sports and Media, bought Ebony and Jet for $14 million after the magazines had declared bankruptcy earlier in the year.
Bridgeman is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In 2008, the PGA of America appointed Bridgeman to serve on the PGA Board of Directors. The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame appointed Bridgeman to the board of governors in 2010. Churchill Downs Inc. appointed Bridgeman to the company's board of directors in 2012. In 2016-2017 Bridgeman was appointed and served on the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. Bridgeman is also a key member of the Simmons College of Kentucky Board of Trustees.
Bridgeman has been honored numerous times at Bucks games since his retirement, and makes regular appearances at Bucks games for bobblehead nights and autograph signings during charity donation-drive events.
Bridgeman is a member of the Louisville megachurch Southeast Christian Church. In 2016, Forbes ranked Bridgeman the fourth-wealthiest retired athlete in the world behind only Michael Jordan, David Beckham and Arnold Palmer with an estimated income of $32 million.
On the Bucks’ appearance in the 2021 NBA Finals, and recalling his Bucks teams repeated Eastern Conference Finals losses, Bridgeman said "You know, we all wore the same jersey at some point in time. So, you feel a relationship there and you know, so much admiration for the guys that are able to get to the Finals. You know, that was our dream of ours and unfortunately, we ran into a couple of guys in Boston and Philly at the time, but they've been able to do it and just wishing them all the luck in the world."
- Bridgeman's no. 2 jersey was retired by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1988.
- In 1999, Bridgeman was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
- Bridgeman was inducted into the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2007.
- In 2009, Bridgeman was inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame.
- In 2014, Bridgeman was inducted into the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.
- In 2019, Bridgeman received the Gold Cup award from Greater Louisville Inc. in honor of his business contributions and community involvement.
- "Junior Bridgeman College Stats". College Basketball at Sports-Reference.com.
- "1974-75 Louisville Cardinals Roster and Stats". College Basketball at Sports-Reference.com.
- "Junior Bridgeman Stats". Basketball-Reference.com.
- "About - National Basketball Players Association". nbpa.com. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
- "Players charge NBA with antitrust violations". UPI. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
- Miller, David (July 28, 2017). "How A Former NBA Player Turned $350,000 into $400 Million". Black Wealth Channel. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
- Schuyler, David (April 20, 2016). "Junior Bridgeman selling restaurant franchises to become Coca-Cola distributor". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
- Mandel, Eric (March 9, 2018). "NBA legend, NHL entrepreneur joint venture completes Coca-Cola's bottling overhaul". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
- Archie, Ayana (December 24, 2020). "Former NBA, Louisville star Junior Bridgeman buys bankrupt Ebony magazine". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
- "Hartford Alphas". Archived from the original on July 12, 2006. Retrieved October 15, 2009.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "Congratulations Ulysses "Junior" Bridgeman".
- Republican, The (February 10, 2010). "Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame adds 7 to board of governors". masslive.com.
- "Churchill Downs Incorporated Appoints New Board Member - Churchill Downs Incorporated". www.churchilldownsincorporated.com.
- Otts, Chris; Green, Marcus (June 29, 2016). "Gov. Matt Bevin names 10 appointees to University of Louisville Board of Trustees". Louisville, KY: WDRB. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
- Schenk, Ruth (April 14, 2016). "Grace at the Race: Bridgeman bringing Derby-time event back to Blankenbaker Campus". The Southeast Outlook. Middletown, Kentucky: Southeast Christian Church. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
- Schneider, Grace (June 17, 2016). "Who are U of L's interim board members?". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
- Kirchen, Rich (April 1, 2016). "Junior Bridgeman fourth on Forbes retired jock pay list led by Michael Jordan". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
- "Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame-Junior Bridgeman". Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
- "Ulysses L. Bridgeman, Jr. — College of Arts & Sciences". louisville.edu.
- "Six Inductees Selected for Athletics Hall Of Fame". mvc-sports.com.
- "Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame". www.entrepreneurhof.com.
- JackieBentley (February 14, 2019). "Ulysses 'Junior' Bridgeman Honored with LouisvilleKY's GLI Gold Cup Award". Louisville KY.