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If the name Junior Bridgeman doesn’t sound familiar, don’t beat yourself up. Known as “The Torch,” he had an 11-year NBA career, averaging over 13 points per game. Bridgeman was a top-10 pick in the 1976 NBA Draft, but we aren’t here to talk about his accomplishments on the court.

This former small forward turned a small investment into a multi-million dollar portfolio. Here’s how Bridgeman chose a smarter financial path than many of his peers.

An initial investment becomes $400 million

Bridgeman got his start by investing in a Wendy’s franchise. Most owners don’t want to do anything except count the paychecks, but Bridgeman dove right in and learned everything he could about the culture and atmosphere from the franchise. His initial investment turned into three restaurants by the time he retired in 1987.

Growing his company

Since then, the 6-foot-5 former athlete has become the second biggest Wendy’s franchise operator in the world, owning 160 locations. On top of purchasing multiple Wendy’s, Bridgeman owns 120 Chick-Fil-A locations across the country. The NBA entrepreneur’s three children also manage aspects of operations.

In addition to fast-food franchises, his investments involve Bridgeman Foods LLC, which includes owning a stake in Black Bear Beverages, a soda out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Why don’t most players become this successful?

After learning of Bridgeman’s investments, we wondered: Why don’t other players follow this route? You commonly hear about former athletes investing in clothing lines, flashy cars, or spending money on material items. Buying restaurant franchises seems like a worthwhile investment if you’re willing to put in the work.

One of the bigger issues may be the amount of work needed to run a restaurant franchise. You must learn about the culture, tasks, hiring, management, and more. Many retired athletes seek quicker investments that will be easier in the short term.

Other notable NBA investors

Luol Deng is the first notable player who we have to mention. His real-estate portfolio is worth over $100 million, with investments in hotels, properties, and apartments. Having connections through Duke and the city of Chicago doesn’t hurt either. Deng continues to work on his portfolio and has even dipped into purchasing cruise lines.

Another NBA star, Kevin Durant, spent time in the Bay Area playing for the Golden State Warriors. This gave him plenty of opportunities to invest in startups. Durant’s latest venture is with headphone company Master & Dynamic.

Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Rick Fox has invested in E-Sports teams over the last couple of years. His name recognition has helped notable e-leagues take off. 

Are you surprised at Bridgeman’s investments?

Were you expecting Bridgeman to have investments worth over $400 million? He clearly has one of the sharpest business minds the NBA has ever seen. His success with restaurant franchises makes us want to go and put a couple of thousand down for a place!