Bradley, Bill (1943—)

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Bradley, Bill (1943—)

A man of many talents, former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley perhaps best embodies the modern idea of a Renaissance man. Bradley was an All-American basketball player at Princeton University, then went on to star with the New York Knicks after a stint in Oxford, England as a Rhodes Scholar. Public service beckoned Bradley and he won his first political office in 1978. Despite his wealthy upbringing, Bradley has had to work hard for every success in his life.

Born July 28, 1943, William Warren Bradley led a very organized and orderly childhood. He used to set aside four hours per day for basketball practice. At the time of his high school graduation in 1961, Bradley had scored 3,066 points and had been named to Scholastic magazine's All-American team twice. This success on the court earned the attention of many prominent college coaches. Despite offers from better known basketball powerhouses, Bradley chose to attend Princeton University for its prestigious academic environment.

While starring at Princeton, Bradley made All-American three times and was named National Association of Basketball Coaches Player of the Year in 1965. One of Bradley's highlights as an amateur athlete was being a member of the gold medal winning American Olympic team in 1964. After his career, several professional basketball teams courted him for his services. Undeterred, Bradley chose instead to pursue further study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. While overseas, Bradley picked up the game again and saw that he missed the athletic competition. After playing some for an Italian professional team, he decided to join the New York Knicks in 1967.

Professional basketball in the 1970s was not the kind of place one would expect to find the intellectual Bradley. Teammates once cool toward Bradley warmed to this Ivy League golden boy after they realized his tremendous heart and work ethic. The Knicks went on to win two NBA championships with Bradley playing integral roles in both. He retired from the game in 1977 and was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

With one career complete, Bradley turned down several business offers and decided to pursue public service. The popular ex-Knick won his first office in 1978, as he defeated Republican nominee Jeffrey K. Bell for the New Jersey senatorial race, a seat he would hold for three terms. Senator Bradley would champion issues like the environment, education, and natural resources. He is perhaps best known for the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which followed many of the ideas on tax reform he laid out in his book, The Fair Tax. He was briefly mentioned as a candidate for the presidency in 1988, then again in 1992. A moderate Democrat, Bradley became respected and revered throughout the senate and the nation. After his retirement from the Senate, Bradley wrote Values of the Game in 1998, about the life lessons he learned from basketball. Its publication again brought Bradley to the media forefront and sparked rumors about his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000.

—Jay Parrent

Further Reading:

Bradley, Bill. Time Present, Time Past—A Memoir. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

——. Values of the Game. New York, Artisan Press, 1998.

Jaspersohn, William. Senator: A Profile of Bill Bradley in the U.S. Senate. San Diego, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1992.