NEW YORK – There was always only one goal for a young, aspiring bull rider in Mooresville, North Carolina, named James Burton Mauney.
“I just wanted to be a World Champion bull rider,” Mauney said. “That is all I had planned. I didn’t think about a lot else. I just wanted to do that and that is all I thought about.”
In the early ‘90s, Mauney grew up idolizing the likes of fellow Tar Heel bull rider Jerome Davis, two-time World Champions Chris Shivers and Justin McBride, and PBR Iron Man J.W. Hart.
Someday Mauney hoped to follow in the footsteps of the PBR legends.
Now 13 years into his own PBR career, Mauney is considered a legend in his own right, and the 30-year-old accomplished something during Round 1 of the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden that none of his idols ever did.
Mauney became the third rider in PBR history to reach the prestigious 500 qualified ride mark on PBR’s premier series by riding All The Way Up for 87.25 points.
Friday was the 25th PBR Unleash The Beast season opener.
Mauney then followed that up with career ride 501 when he conquered Breaking Bad for 87.5 points during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
He joins 2004 World Champion Mike Lee (525 rides) and 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi (613 rides) in the prestigious club.
“Oh yeah, there are not many people that have done that,” Mauney said. “There are only two other guys to have gotten to 500 – Guilherme and Mike Lee. You sit there and the guys I watched growing up, (Chris) Shivers, (Justin) McBride and J.W. (Hart), don’t have 500. To be in a category where there is only three of you, that is a pretty good accomplishment.”
Marchi looked on from the back of the bucking chutes Friday night with a big grin as Mauney brought the fans to their feet with his 500th career ride.
“We are glad to have another rider in the club,” Marchi said. “He is more than welcome. He deserves everything he has done in his career. He is one of the best bull riders we have ever had in the PBR. It is good for the riders. It is good for the sport. I hope he can do 600 like I did too.”
Mauney is 501-for-948 (52.85 percent) in his career and Mauney’s last three rides came sooner than expected in ways.
The 13-year pro got career ride No. 499 last year during Round 1 of the PBR World Finals after it was believed Mauney was going to be done for the 2017 season after he sustained a career-threatening right shoulder injury at the 2017 Calgary Stampede on July 14.
Instead, Mauney returned to competition in only 106 days for the Finals after Dr. Tandy Freeman, who has compared Mauney’s injury to a grenade blowing up the inside of his shoulder, inserted 13 anchors and a screw to repair one of the worst shoulder injuries
Mauney’s surgery involved Freeman repairing torn ligaments, his rotator cuff, a transplantation of Mauney’s bicep tendon and removal of bone fragments after Mauney was injured attempting to ride Cowahbunga.
Amazingly, Mauney returned in less than a three months instead of being out for at least six.
Mauney said prior to the start of the 2018 season that his shoulder was still only 60 percent healthy, but that didn’t stop him from knocking out two big-time rides inside Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
It is just another chapter in a career that is a novel’s worth of historic and sometimes unthinkable accomplishments.
“My whole career has been stacked against me,” Mauney said. “I have been hurt. I have battled injuries my entire career. Every bull rider has. That is something you have to push through and try to win every time.”
While he was happy to reach the 500-ride plateau, Mauney explained he was even more excited to gain some confidence in his shoulder after a disappointing 1-for-5 World Finals left him one ride short of 500 career rides.
Mauney still looks a tad bit awkward as he continues to adjust his riding style to make up for not having full strength and movement in his free arm.
Even he agreed that having two bulls go left on Friday was good for his confidence.
“I felt like at the Finals I was alright if they went right, but to the left I couldn’t,” Mauney said. “There was nothing. I couldn’t do it. To get that one under my belt. He felt like he was bucking pretty good and I felt like I rode him right.”
A deeper dive into Mauney’s 500 rides reveals just how legendary his career has been.
Mauney has two gold buckles, two World Finals event titles, 31 career event wins and 72 90-point rides.
Not only is the richest bull rider ($7.2 million) in history one of only five riders to win multiple PBR gold buckles, and one of three riders to win the World Finals multiple times, but Mauney has conquered World Champion Bulls better than anyone else in PBR history.
Mauney has successfully ridden every…that’s right EVERY…YETI World Champion Bull since 2007 at least once.
“J.B. has slayed every dragon out there,” 2016 World Finals event winner Ryan Dirteater said. “He is the best bull rider in the world. 500 is huge for him.”
SweetPro’s Bruiser (2017, 2016), SweetPro’s Long John (2015), Bushwacker (2011, 2013, 2014), Asteroid (2012), Bones (2008, 2010 ), Code Blue (2009) and Chicken on a Chain (2007) all have been conquered by Mauney – the dragon slayer as so many fans have loved to call him.
In fact, the 2006 Rookie of the Year has 11 qualified rides aboard the seven World Champions, including a 94.25-point ride on SweetPro’s Bruiser last year in Billings, Montana, that pushed him back into the world title conversation prior to his injury.
“I like that because it shows the way I go about it,” Mauney said. “I am not going to take the easy route. I want the bucking bulls.”
Mauney’s ability to ride the majority of the rankest bulls in PBR history is what makes his 500-ride achievement that much more impressive.
Not to diminish the accomplishment for Lee or Marchi, who have only four qualified rides combined on World Champion Bulls, but Mauney’s 500 rides is certainly different.
“The 500 is impressive, but the scores that he turned in are so much more impressive to me,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said last year. “Getting an 81 is one thing, but getting a 91 and up is something else. The bull’s he has challenged, J.B. is a legend and right in his prime.
“He might be in the last few years of his career, and he may more left than we think or less, but he is a living legend right now.”
McBride said Mauney will be inducted into the PBR’s Ring of Honor immediately when he officially retires from the sport.
“Mauney is in a class of his own,” McBride said. “He is the best bull rider of his generation. As soon as the day he decides to be done he is headed straight to the Ring of Honor. He will forever be remembered as one of the very best the PBR has ever seen. There will be a lot of arguments that he is the best ever.
“He will forever be in that conversation.”
Not only has Mauney made a name for himself in the arena, but he has inspired future generations of bull riders.
2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood was one of the thousands of kids that have spent their childhoods looking up to Mauney.
Mauney’s name was always synonymous for rank.
“Heck, I can remember J.B. Mauney as always being the rankest guy going,” Lockwood said. “He has rode every single rank bull there is. Even watching him from the beginning, you knew he was going to break records. You just expected it from him.”
The only World Champion Bull Mauney never got to cover was 2006 champ Mossy Oak Mudslinger, who he never even attempted.
Lee actually rode Mossy Oak Mudslinger for 93.75 points at the 2004 PBR World Finals and Marchi made the 8 seconds on him for 92 points at a 2005 BFTS event in Kansas City, Missouri.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray was stunned last year when told of Mauney’s record against World Champion bulls.
“That is a big deal,” he said. “I am really impressed hearing that stat. It just points directly at the type of rider and type of approach J.B. Mauney has. He really is a superstar. He really is. He is a sports hero when you look at his accomplishments.”
At times in his career, Mauney has been the PBR’s version of Beowulf. He will continuously challenge the rankest bulls in the business until he slays his opposing dragon.
Three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker was his Grendel, and they met 13 times with Mauney's only successful ride coming in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when he scored 95.25 points in 2013.
Mauney’s right shoulder injury is just one of a laundry list of injuries over the course of his career that include a lacerated liver, torn ACL/MCL, broken jaw, concussions, separated shoulder, broken ribs, broken hand, broken ribs, bruised kidney and spleen, fractured hip and a broken leg.
“Hell, he has rode hurt most of his career,” Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger said during the 2017 PBR World Finals. “He has been torn up. One time his hand was so bad he started riding with his right hand.”
And how did it go with his non-riding hand?
How about 89 points on Gunpowder & Lead and Bad Blake.
Mauney, who was 18 when he lacerated his liver, shrugs when asked about his toughness.
“There are lots of guys that get hurt,” Mauney said. “I am not complaining. I could have had a lot worse injuries than I have had. My body has been torn up and beat up since I started riding bulls. Hanging around. Being able to come around when Justin (McBride) and J.W. (Hart) were around. You learned how to say nothing and keep on doing your job.”
Three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes said last year he is not fooled by Mauney’s sometimes blasé approach to PBR records and history.
Moraes knows those historic mountains are motivators for Mauney.
“If you ever want to know how far J.B. can go, just set numbers and records,” Moraes said. “He will go after them. I know there are still records that he has to tie and try to pass, but until J.B. retires that is what he is going to do. Set records and try to break them. That is J.B.
“If you want to see J.B. at his greatest, set numbers and he will go for it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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