Bill Bradley, a gentleman, scholar, athlete, and statesman, found success in every arena. When he left Princeton University for a Rhodes scholarship in 1965, he was the fourth-leading scorer in college basketball history. He later enjoyed a fruitful career in the NBA, then entered politics and became the youngest member of the United States Senate. He also attempted a run at the presidency in 2000.
As a youngster in Crystal City, Missouri, Bradley (born July 28, 1943) took lessons in everything from the French horn to typing, but he had a special passion for basketball and spent long hours mastering the fundamentals. He had a slight hitch in his shot, but it wasn't a problem because he excelled at finding soft spots in opposing defenses. His grasp of offensive principles was astounding.
At Princeton, he became the dominant player in the land. He played with the 1964 Olympic team, scored a record 58 points in an NCAA Final Four game, and won the 1965 Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. His senior season featured an epic battle with top-ranked Michigan and its star forward, Cazzie Russell, in the Holiday Festival in New York City. Bradley scored 41 points against his future teammate before fouling out, after which Michigan rallied to win.
Bradley delayed his pro career to study at Oxford University for two years before joining the New York Knicks in 1968. He arrived "on the wings of hype," wrote The New York Times, and expectations were enormous. Only after moving from guard to forward in 1969 -- replacing Russell, who had suffered a broken ankle -- did Bradley begin to click. At his best, he was a solid pro, usually the Knicks' last scoring option but a vital cog in their motion game. The Knicks peaked in the early 1970s, winning championships in 1970 and 1973.
While he made a princely sum playing basketball, Bradley rejected the trappings of stardom. He dressed modestly, spent wisely (his nickname was "Dollar Bill"), and spent idle hours sharpening his mind. After retiring from the Knicks in 1977, he set out to make his mark in politics, announcing his candidacy for the Senate in 1978. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.
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