Forward Matt Bonner takes to the streets in Toronto instead of driving a car.
By Andrew Lawrence
Your typical NBA player gets his driver's license at 16, his first pro contract at 20 and -- if he's lucky enough to be drafted in the first round -- a different car for each day of the week. The Heat's Gary Payton, for example, has so many Bentleys he once told The Miami Herald he couldn't remember how many he owned. "I've got four or five of them," he said.
But Toronto's Matt Bonner, a frugal forward in a world of frequent excess, has put off investing in a set of wheels. The car-less Bonner, 25, prefers to get around Toronto by streetcars, the subway or his own size 16 feet. Fans and teammates call the 6-foot-10 Bonner "the Red Rocket" -- the nickname of the city's streetcar system. "I'd rather buy something that appreciates in value than something that loses half of it when you drive it off the lot," says Bonner, who majored in business at Florida.
Traveling among the people has helped turn Bonner -- who'll often stroll the one mile from his home to the Air Canada Centre -- into one of Toronto's most popular sports figures. He truly does have the common touch. A Concord, N.H., native who's the son of an elementary schoolteacher (his mother, Paula) and a mailman (his father, David), Bonner spent the 2003-04 season playing for Sicilia, an Italian club so near to bankruptcy that he didn't draw a paycheck for half the season. Even though he signed a two-year deal with Toronto for $4 million last summer, he still needed a talking-to from Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, who advised him (it was pre-NBA dress code) to bring his wardrobe up to league standards.
Bonner, who averages 7.1 points a game, lives in a furnished, one-bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto and has used a portion of his earnings to move his parents from a two-bedroom condo to a three-bedroom house. But he hasn't splurged since -- not even for a little extra protein. "Just the other day I was at Subway and wanted to double the chicken in my sub," he recalls. "But it was $2 more. I was like, What a rip-off!"