"Bill Bradley is the old
fashioned athlete who is not all self-glorification."
David Maraniss, Hardball, CNBC, 1/3/00.
This is a summation of an image that
Bradley has meticulously honed over the years, which the media
has embraced. Every time I hear it, my stomach growls. A
specific incident in Bill Bradley's career belies this myth, and
suggests a contrary, manipulative character along with a
brilliance in media exploitation that has served him well in his
Bradley's 1965 Princeton team made
the NCAA final four, along with Wichita State, Michigan, and
UCLA. Princeton was matched against Michigan in the first
semi-final and was routed, 93-76. In the second semi-final, UCLA
outgunned Wichita State, 108-89, with UCLA's best player, guard
Gail Goodrich, playing barely half the game.
In those days the two losers played
a "consolation game," a match so meaningless that it
was eliminated in 1981. But the game was obviously important to
Bradley, as his performance documented. Bradley wanted something
out of the Tournament. Since it was now clear that Princeton
would not win the Championship, the only thing left was to win
the Player of the Tournament award, which had never before gone
to a player not in the Championship game.
Wichita State was a badly weakened
opponent having lost its star, All American Dave Stallworth, to
graduation shortly before the tournament started, so the outcome
was not in doubt. Despite the lack of competition, Bradley
played the entire game, shooting at every opportunity, scoring
56 points almost at will while annihilating Wichita State
118-82, and setting the cheesiest NCAA Tournament scoring record
In the only game that mattered, the
NCAA Championship game between UCLA and number-one ranked
Michigan, the Bruins were without their All American Forward,
Keith Erickson, who had been felled by a pulled muscle. So the
pressure fell squarely on Goodrich, who rose to the occasion by
scoring an NCAA final-game record 42 points in leading the
Bruins to its second consecutive title, 91-80.
But Goodrich was just a basketball
player and was overmatched against Bradley when it came to
influencing the media, who chose the All-Tournament team.
Bradley, by virtue of his obvious grandstanding performance in
an insignificant game, achieved his goal. The media ignored the
facts and chose Bradley as the Player of the Tournament rather
than the gutty Goodrich, who was so pivotal to UCLA's upset
victory over Michigan in the Championship Final.
To present Bill Bradley as a
self-effacing player who eschewed personal aggrandizement is
simply disingenuous. Bradley's 1965 Princeton-Wichita State game
hardly supports the portrait of "an old-fashioned athlete
who is not all self-glorification," an image Bradley has
shamelessly accepted. If not for self-glorification, why did he
continue gunning as if there were no tomorrow in a game his team
won by 36 points? Rather, it shows a well-hidden selfish,
Machiavellian flair and demonstrates a side of Bill Bradley not
seen in the media or in the bright lights of the campaign trail.