Phoenix legend Ben Winder retires

  • By The Commissioner, Day 127, 2020

Ben Winder of the Phoenix Vultures announced Tuesday that he would retire from professional basketball at the conclusion of the 2020 season, his 15th in the JBL, bringing to a close one of the most decorated careers in the history of the sport.

Winder, 35, made his announcement in the form of a an article on The Players’ Tribune, a website founded by the former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that publishes first-person narratives from athletes.

Winder had said on numerous occasions in recent months that this season was likely to be his last one — though he always qualified those statements, saying that he could change his mind.

In a statement Sunday night, the JBL Commissioner called Winder “one of the greatest players in the history of our game.”

“I join Ben’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding JBL career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Drafted at #2 by the Vultures after Mark Robertson went #1 to the Lightning, Kentucky alumn Winder was came out of college a skinny 6’5 and 180 pounds after pushing Kentucky to a Final Four appearance and finishing second in the College Player of the Year award. The Vultures were unsure at the time whether to go with Winder or Ivan Cage, a dominating center at college, to pair with Flye Garnett. The organisation made the right choice.

Winder made an impact instantly at Phoenix, stealing the starting role quickly stamping his presence on the team. A connsumate professional, he was a locker room favourite and the glue that kept the team together. In his time with Phoenix, he won three JBL titles, six time All-JBL 1st team (11 times overall), and was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2009.

One of the most prolific scorers the league has seen, Winder will end his career third in career scoring after Rashard Stevens and Rich Gannon (both likely to be surpassed in future seasons as the league increases its schedule with expansion).

Winder’s career featured an incredible 38 games of 50 points or over: one 80 point game, two 70 point games, ten 60 point games and twenty six 50 point games. His 83 points against Cincinnati in 2009 (at the time breaking the JBL record), where he made a JBL record 41 field goals, will never be forgotten as one of the best performances in league history.

Even before this formal announcement, Winder was receiving loud ovations in arenas around the country. The rumours that he would retire packed arenas around the country. In Atlanta earlier this month, Winder joked that he preferred the typical hostility of opposing crowds. In the thrilling match between Atlanta and Phoenix, long time rivals, Winder had a chance to win the game but missed the last second shot. It would have been a fitting end to his road career, but sometimes the script does not play out exactly the way you want it to.

Winder deferred to his new teammates more this season, particularly rookie Sasha Vidmar, who Winder has described as the next Phoenix star and leader.

“Vidmar breathes Vulture pride,” he said. “He knows what it means to be a member of this organisation. I’m sure at the end of his career, looking back I will be glad to say that I played with him at the start.”

Despite this deferment, Winder still had averages of 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists. He struggled with his shot more than any other season apart from his rookie year. It was after a 3/17 performance against Seattle right before the All-Star break that he knew he was done.

“I couldn’t get my legs to do what I wanted them to do. The lift wasn’t there, and I knew that it was time to go out. I didn’t want to be the type of guy who hangs around for years at the end of the bench — I wanted to go out on top.”

Although Phoenix, who finished with a 23-33 record this season, missed the playoffs, it is difficult to say that Winder did anything but go out on top. Winder finished with career averages of 27.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.93 steals. He is loved by fans, referees, officials and other players, and will go down as one of the greatest shooting guards, if not players, to play the game.

Ben Winder: JBL Profile