Junior Bridgeman at a gala in Louisvile in 2018.
Stephen J. Cohen via Getty Images

Junior Bridgeman Built His Near-Billion Dollar Empire Off Fast Food

The list of the richest players in NBA history is topped by the usual suspects.

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Shaquille O'Neal occupy a place among the game's all-time greats while also possessing the largest bank accounts.

At No. 2, behind MJ, is Junior Bridgeman.

Bridgeman isn't in the same class as these legends on the court. That isn't to say he was a bad player. In fact, he was really solid.

His offseasons were a bit odd for an NBA player, though. He spent them working at the local Wendy's restaurant, learning the business inside and out.

It was the launching point of an astounding fortune.

Junior Bridgeman Basketball Career

Junior Bridgeman of the Milwaukee Bucks drives against the Washington Bullets.

Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Ulysses Lee "Junior" Bridgeman was born in East Chicago, Indiana on September 17, 1953. His success at Washington High School, where the basketball team went undefeated and won the Indiana state championship in his junior year, helped him earn a scholarship to the University of Louisville.

Under head coach Denny Crum, Bridgeman was the focal point of the Cardinals' offensive attack. In three varsity seasons, he won the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year twice and led the team to the 1975 Final Four. UL fell to eventual champion UCLA 75-74.

For his college career, the 6-foot-5 guard averaged 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.

Bridgeman was the eighth-overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1975 NBA Draft. He was barely a Laker before he was included in the huge trade that sent Milwaukee Bucks center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to LA. Bridgeman joined the Bucks and played a majority of his career in Milwaukee.

— No. 2 Retired by Milwaukee Bucks
— Second-Team All-American - USBWA (1975)
— Third-Team All-American - UPI (1975)
— 2x MVC Player of the Year
— Coach Wooden "Keys to Life" Award (2001)

Bridgeman was a sixth man for most of his playing career. He was traded from Milwaukee to the Los Angeles Clippers in 1984, and he played two years in LA before returning to Wisconsin and retiring with the Bucks in 1987.

In 12-year NBA career, Bridgeman averaged 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and shot 84.6 percent from the free-throw line.

Bridgeman's highest salary was $350,000, culminating in a total of $4,200,000 career earnings. He served as president of the National Basketball Players Association from 1985-88.

The longtime Buck was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

His Business Career

Junior Bridgeman addresses the media before an NBA game in 2014.

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

RELATED: Hakeem Olajuwon's Net Worth: How "The Dream" Built a Staggering Fortune

After his NBA career, Bridgeman took that offseason experience and accelerated into the business world. He steadily built his portfolio of Wendy's franchises under Bridgeman Foods Inc. He added Chili's to the mix and the company eventually grew to more than 160 Wendy's and 120 Chili's restaurants.

The former professional basketball player took on some Fazoli's and Blade's Pizza restaurant franchises as well. At its peak, the company employed over 11,000 people and brought in over $530 million in annual revenue. He sold it in 2016.

Following major success in the fast-food business, Junior is now a bottler for The Coca-Cola Company. He serves as the President and CEO of Heartland Coca-Cola and runs its production plant in Lenexa, Kansas, along with its 18 distribution centers with his son Justin.

Bridgeman serves on the PGA Board of Directors, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame board of governors and the Churchill Downs Inc. board of directors.

Junior Bridgeman's Net Worth

Junior Bridgeman at a gala in Louisvile in 2018.

Stephen J. Cohen via Getty Images

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Junior Bridgeman's net worth is $600 million.

The over-half-a-billion dollar man is an example of how absorbing a business from the ground level can lead to huge dividends.

MORE: Michael Jordan's Net Worth Makes "His Airness" the Richest Athlete of All Time