Sen. Bill Bradley Was an Air Force Vet, Olympian and Two-Time NBA Champion

Senator Bill Bradley in his office. (Library of Congress)

Bill Bradley is a former professional basketball player and U.S. senator. He also served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

At age 9, Bradley began playing basketball, and he soon realized that it was what he wanted to do in life. Not only did he play well, but he also had the physique. By the time he was in eighth grade, he was already 6 feet, 1 inch, and he grew to 6 feet, 5 inches by age 15.

Besides his love for the sport and natural abilities, Bradley also worked hard at the game, spending an average of about five hours practicing each day while in high school and throughout college.

By the time Bradley graduated from high school in 1961, he was considered to be the top high school basketball player in the United States.

In the fall of 1961, Bradley was enrolled in Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, and began playing basketball for the Princeton Tigers.

Success came quickly. As a freshman, he averaged over 30 points per game. He also set a National Basketball Association record for successfully making 57 consecutive free throws.

Bradley also found time to play baseball for Princeton, hitting an average .316 as a first baseman.

His excellence on the court earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, which took the gold medal at the 1964 games in Tokyo.

After graduating from college in 1965, Bradley was selected to play for the New York Knickerbockers. However, he didn't immediately sign and, instead, began studying at Oxford University, where he commuted regularly from England to Milan, Italy, to play for the Olimpia Milano basketball team during the 1965-1966 season. That season, the team won the European Champions Cup.

In April 1967, after graduating from the University of Oxford in England, Bradley joined the Air Force, completing Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve.

After completing administration training at Amarillo AFB, Texas, he was stationed at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, and served in a number of administrative and personnel assignments.

It was fortuitous that Bradley was stationed at McGuire because it was an easy commute for him to play basketball for the New York Knicks, beginning in 1967.

He served six months of active duty and four years in the Air Force Reserve, drilling one weekend a month and serving on active duty two weeks each year.

Bradley attained the rank of first lieutenant before leaving the service with an honorable discharge, March 3, 1978.

Bradley's time with the Knicks lasted from 1967 to 1977. He did so well that his No. 24 jersey was retired in 1977; in 1982, he was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Besides Bradley's love of basketball, he also loved politics. He ran successfully for the U.S. Senate, representing New Jersey from 1979 to 1997. Tax reform and child support enforcement were among the issues he championed.

He also authored a number of books.

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