FORT WORTH, Texas ― The dream of 20 men, who founded the PBR in April 1992, was meant to provide the hope of a better future for all the professional bull riders who came after them.
And little more than a decade later, that hope was all Justin McBride took with him to a bank when he asked for a multi-million dollar loan to purchase a ranch in Oklahoma.
"I had won my first (World Championship), but I was still a long way from having what I needed to buy that place," McBride explained. "I needed to win that other one."
Having won the 2005 title, the Nebraska-native had laid claim to the $1 million bonus paid to World Champions, which is paid out in $100,000 installments over 10 years.
Marketed as the face of the organization and revered as one of the best riders to have nodded his head in PBR history, McBride could only dream there was at least one more title in his future.
"Knowing what the PBR had to offer," he recalled, "and just trusting that I could go do that is pretty much how (the bank) did that."
Putting his faith in accomplishing what only two men ― Adriano Moraes and Chris Shivers ― before him had done, which is to win two World Championships, McBride bet his long-term future on the success of the remainder of his riding career.
McBride was honest with the bankers in telling them, "'I have at least $100,000 every year I can give you. That's really the only promise I can make you.'
"But they knew exactly what you were able to win and everything like that, and so they said, 'When do you want to sign the papers?' I didn't even put any (money) down. It wasn't like they said, 'You need to come up with 10 percent, 15 percent of it.'"
"I signed my name on the dotted line," he continued, "and then went and got busy."
McBride would go on to win his second world title in 2007, and then called it a career following the 2008 season.
His name is at the top of nearly every statistical category in the PBR record books, but, when it came to that bank note, the most telling stat of his career is that he had earned more than $5 million.
"Yeah," said McBride, with a sense of relief, "that was a good, good feeling when I won that second one."
It was a nerve-racking experience added the World Champion.
"It is, ah, it's pretty scary to sign your name for several million (dollars) and you know it's there, but it's not like you have a 9-to-5 job where you can go make that. You have to go try and win it, and hope you don't get hurt. It was a little scary, so when it did happen it was a great feeling.
"When I knew that I could retire," he concluded, "and not lose my place was a great, great feeling."
A MAJOR MILESTONE
In August of 2010, just shy of two years after McBride's retirement, the PBR surpassed $100 million paid to bull riders in the middle of its 17th season of competition. McBride is now one of 26 riders to have earned at least $1 million.
Shane Proctor and Brendon Clark, who will compete at the Built Ford Tough Series, in Tulsa, Okla., next week, are within $100,000 of passing the $1 million mark.
Throughout its 20th anniversary season, the PBR will profile the Top 20 Moments in PBR History. "$100 Million Milestone" is the latest in an ongoing series of moments.
"This is a major milestone for the PBR," said Senior Vice President of Competition Jay Daugherty. "We take pride in presenting the world's best bull riding competition and creating the largest earning potential for bull riders."
In the three calendar years since surpassing $100 million in Nashville, Tenn., where the BFTS will be on Aug. 24 and 25, the organization has already paid out another $30 million, including more than $9 million by the end of the 2013 season.
With its current payout, the PBR will surpass the $200 million milestone in half the time it took to reach the first $100 million.
Prior to the PBR, top-ranked bull riders might have earned $100,000 in their best season, with no rider reaching $1 million during their entire career, including eight-time champion Donnie Gay.
STRIVING FOR MORE
The general consensus of its original 20 founders is to continue working to make the PBR better.
"I always felt like we pointed it in a certain direction," said Cody Lambert, one of those founders, "and we're not looking for one place to be the finish."
The PBR has come a long way since Lambert won the very first PBR event ― in Ft. Worth, Texas ― and claimed the first check for $11,700.
"Being better isn't just measured in dollars," he said.
The organization's mission has always been to provide fans with the best riders and bulls in the best venues.
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"Being in the PBR, in any capacity, is not for everyone, and that's fine," Lambert explained. "But if it's about bull riding and you want to be the best, and you want to be involved with the very best, then there's only one major league. There's the PBR way up here and then there's all kinds of other little bull ridings way down below that.
"Everybody can't be that good," he continued, "or it wouldn't separate the major league from everything else-the bulls are better, the riders are better, the fans are better, the venues are better, there are more [events] and they're on television."
Just as the founders didn't make excuses for their shortcomings, those involved with the PBR today "refuse to accept defeat."
"That's what's so gratifying about it," said Lambert. "Knowing we could have quit, given up and gone back to riding and not worrying about the other things. We made a true effort to get better and make things better."
Their efforts not only made it better for future generations, it also seems, at least to some, to have made it easy to make a living.
ALVES ON PACE TO SHATTER MCBRIDE'S CAREER-EARNINGS MARK
When he retired, McBride thought it was only a matter of time before riders like Guilherme Marchi, Kody Lostroh and J.B. Mauney would surpass his PBR career record of $5,124,418.42. Thinking ahead, he also said, "Or maybe somebody else will come along."
That someone is Silvano Alves.
The two-time reigning World Champion is on pace to shatter McBride's career-earnings mark.
He made his debut in April of 2010 ― just four months before the organization passed $100 million ― and since then he's already earned $3,565,498.67. He's also set the mark as the fastest man to earn $1 million, $2 million and $3 million.
More importantly, he's the only rider in PBR history to currently have averaged nearly $100,000 a month since making his BFTS debut.
Silvano Alves wins the 2012 PBR World Title.
"When you put in a great career, we wanted a guy to have something to show for it when it was done," said nine-time World Champion and co-founder Ty Murray. "It was hard watching our heroes, who had great, long careers, basically have to get a job the day they retired.
"We wanted to change that."
By comparison, Wacey Cathey, who was inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor in 2001, was a 14-time qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo and yet the legendary rider earned only a few hundred thousand dollars throughout his notable career.
"He rode against the best," McBride said. "I mean the very best, and he went to the NFR 14 times."
Upon the starting the PBR a few of the founders were cash-strapped.
Jerome Davis famously wrote a check for $500 and paid the remaining half of his initial investment at a later date, while Michael Gaffney has talked about having told his wife about his investment only to find out then that he didn't have $1,000 in his checking account.
Even in the early days of the PBR many of the riders still found themselves having to compete not only at PBR events, but also on the rodeo circuit.
'I JUST KNEW ALL THE COOL GUYS WERE THERE, AND YOU COULD MAKE SOME MONEY'
In 1999, when McBride made his PBR debut in Bakersfield, Calif., he admitted, "I don't think I understood it all."
"All I knew was that all the very best bull riders were going to these bull ridings, and that's all I really knew about the PBR," he explained. "I didn't know the back story to it, or the 20 guys putting their money up or anything. I didn't know anything about it. I just knew all the cool guys were there, and you could make some money."
McBride, who willingly chose to retire at the age of 29, said he'll never forget the rider meeting, in early 2003, when then-CEO Randy Bernard walked in and told the riders that the World Champion was going to get a $1 million bonus.
"I thought, 'Well, that's really cool,' but I don't think it set in until after (Chris) Shivers actually won it," McBride said. "I knew it was going to happen, but it never really sunk in until they handed him that check that year."
"When I came around I thought Moses finally got to see the Promised Land," he joked. "But it was really just starting to grow."
A BRIGHT FUTURE AWAITS
"We've gotten to see our dreams come true through the guys who are riding now," Murray said. "It's very exciting, but I think we're still just as motivated as ever to continue to make this sport grow and for it to get the attention that it deserves.
"It's too great of a sport, it requires too good of an athlete ― both physically and mentally ― for nobody to know about it."
According to Murray, the PBR has provided riders with a great competitive opportunity and, as the original mission statement read, "the PBR has provided the fans with the best bull riders and the best bulls."
Not only does the current generation, as well as those yet to come, have a great opportunity while they're competing, but they also have a chance for a better life after bull riding.
Murray is proud of the fact that McBride and others like him have been, and continue to be, financially rewarded for being the best in their sport.
"It's exciting to see someone like Justin McBride come in, have a 10-year career ― a really good career ― and retire before the age of 30 comfortably," said Murray.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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