We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. We’re starting with Princeton because that’s where Aaron Burr is from and it’s been a bad week for Alexander Hamilton.
In the winter and spring of 1961, Bill Bradley of Crystal City, Mo., sifted through 75 scholarship offers to play basketball in college before deciding to accept the one from … Duke. Believing Princeton offered him a better chance to prepare for a foreign service career, Bradley made a late change in plans and enrolled at Old Nassau in September 1961. He received no financial aid. Fortunately, one of the important influences in young Bradley’s life was the Tiger Heisman Trophy recipient, Dick Kazmaier, whose number 42 Bradley proudly wore throughout his Tiger years.
Freshmen were ineligible for varsity play when Bradley enrolled, limiting his career to three seasons. He managed to score an astounding 2,503 points, setting a Princeton record that still stands today. He is also the career leading scorer, in total points and scoring average, in the Ivy League. Freshmen are now eligible, the shot clock was adopted and the three point field goal has become the most important factor on offense. Nevertheless, it took 48 years for anyone to get within 850 points of Bradley’s total, when Ian Hummer climbed to second place in 2013.
Bradley’s teams won three Ivy titles and reached the Final Four in 1965, where he was named tournament MVP following a 58 point explosion in the consolation game. He was selected to many All-America teams in each of his three years and was named the Sullivan Award winner in 1965. The lone undergraduate to make the 1964 Olympic team, he helped the United States win the Gold Medal.
In his senior year Bradley earned a coveted Rhodes Scholarship, thereby postponing his inevitable professional career. Welcomed with open arms by the New York Knicks, Bradley became a very important contributor to two NBA titlists in the golden era of pro basketball at Madison Square Garden.
He represented New Jersey for 18 years in the United States Senate, has written several best sellers, made a quixotic run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, and today is enjoying a new career as host of a weekly radio show, American Voices, on Sirius Satellite Radio. And Bradley was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.
If he had never played a minute of basketball, Bill Bradley would be remembered as one of the university’s most distinguished alumni. He is, in a real sense, the face of the Ivy League and the very best of what the league represents in the national community.