Throwback Thursday - Bill Bradley
William Warren "Bill" Bradley, born July 28, 1943, was raised in Crystal City, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and excelled at basketball from an early age.
Bradley's graduation year, 1965, was the last year that the NBA's territorial rule was in effect, which gave professional teams first rights to draft players who attended college within 50 miles of the team. The New York Knicks—one mile closer to Princeton than the Philadelphia 76ers—drafted Bradley as a territorial pick in the 1965 draft, but he did not sign a contract with the team immediately. While studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at Oxford, he commuted to Italy to play professional basketball in the Lega Basket Serie A for Olimpia Milano during the 1965–66 season, where the team won a European Champions Cup.
Bradley dropped out of Oxford two months prior to graduation in April 1967, to go into the Air Force Reserves. After serving six months active duty as an officer (the requirement was 4 years active duty), he joined the New York Knicks in Dec. 1967. The following year Oxford let Bradley take "special exams" and he graduated Oxford in 1968. (On March 6, 1967, Lyndon B. Johnson in a Special Message to the Congress on Selective Service, declared that he would be issuing an Executive Order that no deferments for post-graduate study be granted in the future, except for those men pursuing medical and dental courses.)
In Bradley's rookie season, he joined the team late, having also missed the entire preseason. He was placed in the back court, although he had spent his high school and college careers as a forward. Both he and the team did not do well, and in the following season, he was returned to the forward slot. Then, in his third season, the Knicks won their first-ever NBA championship, followed by the second in the 1972–73 season, when he made the only All-Star Game appearance of his career. Over 742 NBA games – all with the Knicks – Bradley scored a total of 9,217 points, an average of 12.4 points per game, with his best season average being 16.1 points per game in the 1972–73 season. Bradley also averaged 3.4 assists per game.
During his NBA career, Bradley used his fame on the court to explore social as well as political issues, meeting with journalists, government officials, academics, businesspeople, and social activists. He also worked as an assistant to the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, D.C., and as a teacher in the street academies of Harlem. In 1976, he also became an author by publishing Life on the Run. Using a 20-day stretch of time during one season as the main focus of the book, he chronicled his experiences in the NBA and the people he met along the way. He noted in the book that he had initially signed only a four-year contract, and that he was uncomfortable using his celebrity status to earn extra money endorsing products as other players did.
Retiring from basketball in 1977, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983, along with teammate Dave DeBusschere. In 1984, the Knicks retired his number 24 jersey; he was the fourth player so honored by the Knicks, after Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, and DeBusschere.