By Graham Kates, @GrahamKates
During Walter Bond’s senior year of college, he was nearly ready to give up on his dream of playing in the National Basketball Association.
The 6-foot-5 University of Minnesota shooting guard certainly made for an unlikely NBA prospect. He had spent three seasons trying to get off the bench, only to have his senior year cut short by injuries.
His father encouraged him to set his sights on the NBA anyway.
“I was like, ‘What?’ I had totally moved on. I was a guy who averaged seven points a game. Nothing in my resume said NBA,” Bond said during a phone conversation with S&F on Tuesday.
A year later, in November 1992, the former University of Minnesota benchwarmer was an opening night starter for the Dallas Mavericks.
After three years in the NBA, another five in the Continental Basketball Association and other leagues, and two as an announcer for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bond left basketball and followed a career trajectory that was, you know, pretty typical…
He opened a Gymboree franchise, became a motivational speaker, published a book called “All Buts Stink!” and got a gig at the Food Network.
It’s his unlikely path — in both basketball and business — that Bond says makes him the perfect host for “Giving You the Business,” a new show premiering on the Food Network this Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.
In each week’s episode, the CEO of a company chooses four employees to be brought to a “corporate training” location. Once there, the unwitting contestants are put through a series of challenges — they face unruly customers, hectic rushes and mess-makers — and all the while, they have no idea that they’re actually competing for the keys to their very own franchise.
But Bond said sometimes contestants do realize something’s amiss.
“Some of the experiences are so unique, the they kind of figure out like, ‘Hey, what’s going on here, man? This is weird,’ Bond said. “They’ll be like, ‘I knew something was going on, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.’”
The first episode features employees of the Famous Famiglia chain, picked to man “the worst shift ever,” according to a Food Network commercial:
They deal with a throng of teens, while a customer screams from the bathroom, “Help me! Let me out of here,” and another goes head first into the garbage, in search of a lost cell phone.
As their boss secretly watches, the Famiglia employees struggle to quell the chaos without losing their wits.
The winner, Bond said, typically embodies one of his personal mottoes.
“You’ve got to be excellent, because somebody’s watching.”