"Dollar Bill" Bradley as a Tigers star.
|Passion. Discipline. Selflessness. Respect. Perspective. Courage. Leadership. Responsibility. Resilience. Imagination.
Those are the 10 virtues Bill Bradley discusses in his book, "Values of the Game." They are also qualities that describe a man who has been in the national spotlight for 35 years as basketball star, U.S. senator from New Jersey and now, presidential hopeful for the 2000 election.
Bradley, the rare superstar athlete whose greatest impact came after his playing career, achieved mythic status during his career at Princeton University for his court prowess, his humility and his impressive intellect.
He was also praised for his work ethic, and it was well-known that Bradley, while growing up as the son of a banker in Crystal City, Missouri, stuffed lead weights in his sneakers to strengthen his legs and wore glasses with blinders to improve his dribbling skills.
He was called by some "the savior of our generation." Around Princeton, the sport Dr. William Naismith invented was referred to as "Bradleyball."
A three-time All-American, Bradley holds nearly every Princeton scoring record, including most career points (2,503) and highest scoring average (30.2). He was captain of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, the college Player of the Year in 1965 and he was a Rhodes Scholar.
Bradley's greatest moments at Princeton occurred during March 1965, when Princeton advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
Although Princeton had gone 19-5 (13-1 in winning the Ivy League), they weren't expected to make a splash in the Tournament. As Ivy League champs in 1960, 1961, 1963 and 1964, Princeton had made it to the NCAA Tournament but had only won one game. Prior to the start of the 1965 Tournament, coach Willem van Breda Kolff and Bradley expressed confidence that the team could go farther.
They were right, but the Tigers' amazing run was almost stopped before it began. In the first round against Penn State at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Bradley, according to a report in The Trentonian, played more like a "Rhodes Scholar than the nation's number one cager" for the first 32 minutes of the game. A 10-0 run by the Nittany Lions put them up, 45-42, with eight minutes to play, setting up Princeton's most dramatic victory of the tournament.
But Bradley proved why he was the ultimate prime-time player long before basketball analyst Dick Vitale exclaimed, "He's a PTPer!"
It began with a drive down the baseline for a basket and a foul. He sank the free throw to tie the game at 45. He also hit two free throws on a one-and-one to tie the game at 52. He followed his own missed shot to get an offensive rebound and a basket to tie it at 54.
He then faked out two Nittany Lions to drive to the basket for the go-ahead layup, and iced it with four more points in the final minute.
In all, he had scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the final eight minutes and 10 of his team's final 14 to lift the Tigers to a 60-58 victory and put them in the NCAA Eastern Regional semifinals against North Carolina State.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Bradley, worshipped as the quintessential gentleman scholar, prompted Penn State coach Jack McCluskey to say: "He's a mean bugger. Unless you play against him you don't realize how mean he is out there."
Bradley and the Tigers had reached the second round of the Tournament in 1964, but they suffered a heartbreaking 52-50 defeat at the hands of Connecticut. This time, the going would be much easier, as Princeton beat the favored Wolfpack, 66-48.
By no means was Bradley a one-man act as the upstart Ivy Leaguers shocked the Atlantic Coast Conference champs, as The Trentonian reported:
"Guards Gary Walters and Don Rodenbach alternated with the All-American bringing the ball through the N.C. State press as if it weren't there; Ed Hummer and Robby Brown were rebounding towers and stymied the State attack underneath, while Bob Haarlow enjoyed his usual double-figure contribution of 10 points. "
But the star of the show, as always, was Bradley. The forward netted 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting and displayed his superb passing skill with seven assists. He earned a standing ovation from 12,500 spectators at Maryland's Cole Field House.
Amazingly, Princeton had an even easier time in the Eastern final, destroying the No. 4 team in the nation, Providence, 109-69. Bradley poured in 41 points, breaking his previous Tournament high of 40, set in 1963 in an 82-81 loss to St. Joseph's.
On Sunday, 600 Princeton fans welcomed home the conquering heroes, as the team was lifted on students' shoulders in a victory celebration.
The win set up a Final Four showdown with Mideast champion and top-ranked Michigan.
"We've been looking forward to this since 11:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 30," Bradley said. On that day, Bradley had fouled out with Princeton leading by 12 with 4:50 to play, but the Wolverines stormed back for an 80-78 win.
But there would be no redemption on March 19. Again, foul trouble plagued the Tigers, as Bradley picked up his third personal with just six minutes gone in the game and his fourth early in the second half, and Brown got his fourth with three minutes left in the half.
Princeton enjoyed a 34-29 advantage 3:40 before intermission, but Michigan switched from a 1-3-1 defense to a man-to-man, and eventually won, 93-76. Bradley, playing what was admittedly a subpar game, scored 29 points.
But Bradley's college career wasn't quite over. Saving the best for last, the senior single-handedly annihilated Wichita State's defense in the NCAA third-place game. He scored 19 points in the first half, as the Tigers took a commanding 53-39 lead.
The crowd of 13,000 at Portland's Memorial Coliseum lost interest in the outcome and began to focus on the final performance of a player many regarded as the best college player of his generation.
Bradley netted a quick 13 points in the first six minutes of the second half, and the Tigers bench called to the press box for Bradley's total. His teammates yelled at him, telling him to shoot, but for four minutes, he went scoreless, preferring to pass to open teammates.
But that drought ended quickly, and he passed the Tournament record of 42 points with ease. When he got to 46, coach van Breda Kolff told him to go for Oscar Robertson's NCAA single-game record of 56.
According to a report in the Daily Princetonian, Princeton's student newspaper, "a weird, fairy-tale series of basketball moments ensued. It was the kind of display - except that it was not a show - that every would-be basketball star dreams of."
Bradley obeyed his coach's orders, scoring 12 more points, giving him 58 and surpassing Robertson. With 33 seconds left, Don Roth drew a purposeful foul, and van Breda Kolff gave Bradley one more chance to walk off the court as a Tiger to thunderous applause. Bradley was named MVP of the Tournament.
UCLA beat Michigan in the championship game, and Princeton fans in the crowd chanted, "We're No. 3!" - quite an accomplishment for a university known more for its academics than athletics.
Back at Princeton, however, the team was welcomed back as champions. Bradley stood atop a bus and told 2,000 fans, "Last Sunday, we all stood up on top of this bus and did some pretty big talking. We didn't produce."
As Bradley said, "I don't know whether to say I'm sorry," the crowd yelled, "No! No!" One student said, "Say it 58 times."
His 58 points are still the most for a Final Four game, and has only been surpassed in the Tournament by Glen Rice of Michigan, who had 61 in a game in 1989. His 22 field goals were also a record. For his career, he scored 303 points in nine Tournament games, good for seventh best all-time, one point behind Lew Alcindor (who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and 21 behind record-holder Oscar Robertson.
Bradley then spent two years at Oxford, completed his Rhodes Scholar studies, and headed to the NBA with the New York Knicks, where he received $100,000 in 1967, then a record for a rookie.
With the Knicks, he spent two years shaking off the rust and adjusting to the pro game. He was given the dubious nickname, "Dollar Bill." But he proved he deserved the moniker for being a money player, as he became a force with his tireless effort and selfless play, his stylish passing and clutch shooting.
As part of a talented team that included Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Dave DeBusschere, Bradley helped New York win championships in 1970 and 1973. He averaged 12.4 points per game in his 10-year NBA career, and was named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.
But basketball had only been a part of his life, he wasn't consumed by it. Disturbed by the racial aspect of his popularity, the "Great White Hope," in a sport dominated by blacks, Bradley said he learned to understand mistrust and the suspicion of racism.
Bradley sought public office, perhaps to fulfill his promise as "savior of our generation." He easily won the Democratic senatorial primary in 1978, and was elected by New Jersey voters to the first of three terms as a U.S. senator. Today, he is running against Vice President Al Gore for the 2000 presidential nomination on a platform of multiracial unity.
In his 1976 autobiography, "Life on the Run," Bradley, NBA star, said, "The point of the game is not how well the individual does but whether the team wins. That is the beautiful heart of the game, the blending of personalities, the mutual sacrifice for group success."
In his 1995 book, "Time Present, Time Past," U.S. Senator Bradley wrote: "Leadership is not something that is done to people, like fixing their teeth. Rather, it is what unlocks people's potential, challenges them to become better, calls them to task for the lies they have told about themselves. It also sees the goodness in even the most intractable knave. The answer to our problems, individually and as a nation, rests within each of us."
With Bill Bradley, the cliché of sports as a metaphor for life rings true.
|By CHRIS BAUD / The Trentonian|
|Bradley opened his 2000 presidential run with high hopes.|