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Sports Then and Now

Bill Bradley – An All-American Hero

Posted on March 04, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Bill Bradley was a three-time ALl-American at Princeton.

Bill Bradley was a three-time All-American at Princeton.

In honor of the upcoming NCAA “March Madness”, we recognize as the March Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month a former college basketball superstar who helped lift a college not known for its basketball prowess to unprecedented heights.

Bill Bradley embodied the true meaning of the term student-athlete. A Rhode scholar, Bradley was a three-time All-American at Princeton University and was the College Basketball Player of the Year as a senior in 1965.

Bradley originally was slated to attend Duke University, but after breaking his foot prior to his freshman year, he instead decided to attend Princeton.

As a sophomore during the 1962-63 season, Bradley earned first team All-American honors from The Sporting News and second team honors from the Associated Press while averaging 27 points per game. He helped lead Princeton to a 19-6 record and the Ivy League championship before losing a heartbreaker to St. Joseph’s 82-81 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

The following season, Bradley averaged more than 30 points per game and again led Princeton to the NCAA Tournament. Bradley was again named as an All-American and led the Tigers to a 20-9 record and a second straight Ivy League title. In the NCAA Tournament, they defeated Virginia Military Academy before falling to Connecticut 52-50 in the East Regional.

Following his junior season, Bradley was selected to the United State Olympic basketball team and helped the USA claim their sixth straight basketball gold medal.

As a senior, Bradley was the NCAA Player of the Year while again averaging more than 30 points per contest. The Tigers finished the season with a 23-6 record and were 13-1 in the Ivy League (with their lone defeat being by one point to Cornell).

In the NCAA Tournament, Princeton advanced to the Final Four with victories over Penn State, North Carolina State and Providence. They finally lost to Michigan in the semifinals.

They then defeated Wichita State 118-82 in the third place game with Bradley stunning the crowd with a 58 point performance that is still the most points ever scored by a player in a Final Four game.

In nine NCAA Tournament games, Bradley averaged 33.7 points, which still ranks as the second best career scoring average in NCAA Tournament history.

Bradley helped the Knicks to two NBA titles.

Bradley helped the Knicks to two NBA titles.

His 2,503 career points are nearly 1,000 points better than the second leading scorer in Princeton history (Christopher Mueller with 1,546 points) and he is the only player in school history to score 40 or more points in a game (he did it 11 times).

After graduation, Bradley chose not to immediately enter the NBA and instead accepted a Rhode Scholar appointment and spent two years studying at Oxford.

He joined the New York Knicks for the 1967-68 season and averaged eight points per game as the Knicks went 43-39 and advanced to the Eastern Division Semifinals.

During the 1969-70 season, Bradley averaged 14.5 points as the Knicks won their first NBA title.

His best season in the NBA was the 1972-73 season as he averaged 16.1 points per game and was named to the All-Star team for the only time in his career. The Knicks also claimed their second NBA title that season.

Though Bradley never reached offensive heights in the NBA that were near his college scoring prowess, he did have a solid ten year career for the Knicks. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.

After retiring in 1977, Bradley decided to run for the U.S> Senate and in 1978 was elected as a U.S. Senator from New Jersey.

He served 18 years in the Senate before deciding not to seek reelection in 1996. In 2000, Bradley ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination, but was unable to defeat Al Gore.

If you have a nominee for the Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month, please e-mail and we will consider your nomination.

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