Bill Bradley Biography

Famous Basketball Players, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative (1943–)
Bill Bradley is known for turning his basketball fame into a political career in the U.S. Senate and as a candidate for the presidency in 1999.


Bill Bradley, an athlete turned politician, was a successful forward at Princeton, leading his team to three straight Ivy League titles. Following graduation, he skipped the NBA draft to obtain his MA at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Once he joined the NBA, he was with the New York Knicks on two championship teams, in 1970 and 1973. He was elected senator from New Jersey after basketball.

Early Years

William Warren "Bill" Bradley was born on July 28, 1943, in Crystal City, Missouri. The son of a bank president, he grew up in comfort in a community of mostly working-class families, taking advantage of a basketball court in his back yard with daily shooting and training drills.

Already over 6 feet by the eighth grade, Bradley became one of the region's most celebrated players at Crystal City High School. He received 75 college scholarship offers and committed to Duke University, but he changed his mind and enrolled at Princeton University just before the start of the 1961 academic semester.

Princeton and Oxford

A 6'5" forward known for his superb all-around skills, Bradley became the unquestioned star of the Princeton basketball program. He averaged more than 30 points per game in his three varsity seasons, garnering a spot on the All-America team each time. The summer before his senior year, he captained the U.S. squad that won the gold medal at the 1964 Olympics.

The subject of an extensive profile in The New Yorker, Bradley became a national celebrity in his final year on campus. He led Princeton to a surprising appearance in the 1965 NCAA national semifinals, earning tournament Most Outstanding Player honors and becoming the first basketball player to win the Amateur Athletic Union’s Sullivan Award for the amateur athlete of the year.

Awarded a Rhodes scholarship before graduating magna cum laude with a degree in history in 1965, Bradley spurned an offer to play professional basketball for the New York Knicks and spent two years at Oxford's Worcester College. He considered the possibilities of enrolling at law school and starting a political career but instead elected to resume his basketball career by joining the Knicks in late 1967.

Pro Basketball Career

After struggling in his rookie season, Bradley became a vital complementary player on a team that featured such talents as Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Willis Reed. Known as "Dollar Bill" and "Mr. President," he helped the Knicks win the NBA championship in 1970 and 1973, earning an All-Star selection in the latter year on the strength of a career-high 16.1 points per game.

Bradley married Montclair State University literature professor Ernestine Schlant in 1974. Two years later, the basketball star became a father with the birth of his daughter, Theresa Anne, and an author with the publication of his first book, Life on the Run. He retired from the Knicks in 1977 and was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.

Senator and Presidential Candidate

Despite having no prior experience in office, Bradley successfully ran for a Senate seat from his new home state of New Jersey in 1978. A member of the Senate Finance and Energy committees, as well as chairman of the Democratic Economic Task Force, Bradley was a driving force behind the Tax Reform Act of 1986. He scored another major legislative victory in 1992 with the passage of a comprehensive bill that reallocated the use of water resources throughout California.

Declaring the American political system to be "broken," Bradley left the Senate in 1996 after three terms. He became senior adviser and vice chairman for J.P. Morgan & Co., Inc., and served as a visiting professor at Stanford, Notre Dame and Maryland, but he eventually emerged as a leading contender for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination. Devoting his platform to issues of environmentalism, health care and race relations, Bradley drew significant support before dropping out in March 2000 to support incumbent Vice President Al Gore.

Post-Political Career

In 2001, Bradley became chief outside adviser to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company and managing director of investment bank Allen & Company LLC. He joined the boards of several companies, including Starbucks, and in 2005 he began hosting the weekly show American Voices on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio.

After finalizing his divorce in 2007, Bradley began a relationship with Betty Sue Flowers, former director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. On the heels of the 2012 publication of his seventh book, We Can All Do Better, the erstwhile senator and presidential candidate continued to tour the country, pushing for a focus on early childhood education and an examination of such campaign issues as finance laws and gerrymandering.

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