Bradley an anomaly among professional athletes
A USTIN—One of the great things about doing what I do, is that every once in a while, you get to share the same space with someone who gained famed by being the best at what he does or someone you admired in your past.
I was able to once again meet someone that I looked up to as a former college and NBA star, senator and presidential candidate Bill Bradley spoke to a large crowd at the Longhorn Alumni Center as part of the “Basketball and American Culture” symposium.
James Naismith’s original rules of basketball are also on display at the Blanton Museum in Austin.
For those of us who weren’t blessed with the greatest natural athlete talent in the world, Bill Bradley was our poster boy.
“Dollar” Bill was not exactly smooth, wasn’t particularly fast, couldn’t jump especially high and had a funny looking jump shot.
But he possessed two intangibles that those more skilled didn’t—discipline and determination.
In a “Hoosiers”-like scenario, he led tiny Crystal City to the Missouri state championship game against the largest school in the state, only to lose after he stole the ball and passed to a wide-open teammate who missed a game-winning layup as the buzzer sounded.
Bradley was an anomaly, choosing education over athletics. He turned down a basketball scholarship from Duke (as well as 75 other offers) to attend Princeton where he became a Rhodes Scholar and studied at Oxford.
He was a three-time All-American and player of the year when he led Princeton (that’s Princeton) to the Final Four.
Despite the fact that Princeton lost in the semifinals to Michigan, he was named the tournament MVP after scoring a tournament record 58 points.
Played for the New York Knicks in the NBA for 10 years, where he won two world championships and was an all-star. He’s a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Served three terms in the senate and was a presidential candidate in 2000.
Bradley’s topic of discussion Thursday was—surprise—basketball.
“Basketball is one of the greatest sports because all you need is a rim, a ball and imagination.”
Bradley touched on four “central values” that he learned through basketball that have carried him through his whole life; discipline, selflessness, resilience and imagination.
“I consider myself more a basketball player than anything else,” Bradley said. “My greatest thrill was winning the NBA championship twice, trophy in the air, tingling down the spine. My greatest honor was winning the gold medal for my country at the Olympics.”
He really struck a chord when he talked about teammates and missing being on a team.
“Being on a team is the bond that lasts because of the commitment to our teammates. It’s a gift that never stops giving.”
Somewhere in the middle of his talk, he talked about passing the ball rather than shooting.
“Effective teamwork is only possible when every member acts selflessly and this is evident on the court by the players who look to pass before shooting.”
Now he’s gone to far.
So, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I approached Mr. Bradley after his presentation— I introduced myself as a fellow 6-foot-5 basketball player named Bill—and advised him that he needed to stop talking about that passing-first thing, it makes him sound crazy.
As he erupted in laughter, someone took our picture which I now have and has quickly become a prized possession.
As I lined up to buy one of his books, “Values of the Game”, and have it signed, he smiled as he asked me my name as he scribbled something on the title page.
“For Bill: Remember, to pass is better than to shoot.”
A gift that never stops giving, you bet.
Here is a list of five athletes
who became Rhodes Scholars
(other than Bill Bradley):
1. Kris Kristofferson (1958)—
Pomona College (football).
2. Byron “Whizzer” White
Supreme Court Justice.
3. Pete Dawkins (1959)—
Army. Heisman Trophy winner.
4. Pat Haden (1978)—USC
5. Tom McMillen (1974)—A
7-foot-4 center for Maryland.