YOUR TYPICAL NBAplayer gets his driver's license at 16, his first pro contract at 20 and--ifhe's lucky enough to be drafted in the first round--a different car for eachday of the week. The Heat's Gary Payton, for example, has so many Bentleys heonce told The Miami Herald he couldn't remember how many he owned. "I'vegot four or five of them," he said.
But Torontoforward Matt Bonner, a spendthrift in a world of frequent excess, has put offinvesting in a set of wheels. The car-less Bonner, 25, prefers to get aroundToronto by streetcars, the subway or his own size 16 feet. Fans and teammatescall the 6'10" Bonner "the Red Rocket"--the nickname of the city'sstreetcar system. "I'd rather buy something that appreciates in value thansomething that loses half of it when you drive it off the lot," saysBonner, who majored in business at Florida.
Traveling amongthe people has helped turn Bonner--who'll often stroll the one mile from hishome to the Air Canada Centre--into one of Toronto's most popular sportsfigures. He truly does have the common touch. A Concord, N.H., native who's theson of an elementary schoolteacher (his mother, Paula) and a mailman (hisfather, David), Bonner spent the 2003-04 season playing for Sicilia, an Italianclub 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, whoaverages 7.1 points a game, lives in a furnished, one-bedroom apartment indowntown Toronto and has used a portion of his earnings to move his parentsfrom a two-bedroom condo to a three-bedroom house. But he hasn't splurgedsince--not even for a little extra protein. "Just the other day I was atSubway and wanted to double the chicken in my sub," he recalls. "But itwas $2 more. I was like, What a rip-off!"