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William (Bill) Warren Bradley (born July 28, 1943 in Crystal City, Missouri) is an American former star basketball player who later became a well-known U.S. Senator and presidential candidate.
The son of Warren Bradley and Susie Crowe, Bill Bradley began playing basketball in fourth grade. He was a basketball star at Crystal City High School, scoring 3,068 points in his scholastic career and twice being named an All-American. With stellar academic credentials as well, he received 75 scholarship offers.
The 6' 5" (1.96 m) Bradley chose Princeton University, even though Ivy League colleges could not offer athletic scholarships. The Ivy League has never seen a more dominating player. At Princeton, Bradley was a three-time All-American and the 1965 National Player of the Year. With Bradley in tow, the Tigers captured the Ivy League championship in each of his three varsity seasons. During his sophomore campaign, Bradley averaged 27.3 points and 12.2 rebounds a game while hitting 89.3 percent of his free throws. Among his greatest games was a 41-point effort in an 80-78 loss to heavily favored Michigan in the 1964 Holiday Festival (Bradley fouled out with his team leading 75-63), and a 58-point outburst against Wichita State in the 1965 NCAA tournament, which was a single game record. In total, Bradley scored 2,503 points at Princeton, averaging 30.2 points per game. In 1965, Bradley became the first basketball player chosen as winner of the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award, presented to the United States' top amateur athlete in the country.
As a freshman, Bradley sank 57 successive free throws, a record unmatched by any other player, college or professional. As a sophomore, he led the league in rebounds, field goals, free throws, and total points, and, when he fouled out after scoring a record-breaking 40 points in an NCAA tournament game with Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia, was given an unprecedented ovation.
In his junior year, he made 51 points against Harvard, more than the entire opposing team had scored before he was taken out, and his 33.1 points-per-game average that season set an Ivy League record.
In his senior year, when he was captain, he led Princeton to the highest national ranking it had ever had in basketball. The Tigers placed third behind UCLA and Michigan in the NCAA tournament, as a result of an 118-82 victory over Wichita State in the consolation game of the semi-finals. In the Wichita game, Bradley scored 58 points, an NCAA tournament record.
Bradley graduated with honors and was awarded a Rhodes Scholar at Worcester College, Oxford University. Bradley also served as captain of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1964.
After completing his studies at Oxford, and playing professional basketball briefly in Italy for Olimpia Milano, where he won a European Champions Cup (the most important trophy for European teams), Bradley returned to the U.S. to join the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association. On the court, Bradley struggled his rookie year before coming into his own in his second season. During that season, he was moved from the guard position to his more natural forward position. In 1969-70, he helped the Knicks win their first national championship, followed by a second in 1972-73. The second championship season was Bradley‚??s best and he made his only All-Star Game appearance that year. Retiring from basketball in 1977, he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
In the NBA, Bradley was not the major scoring threat he had been in college. Over ten years playing small forward for the Knicks, "Dollar Bill," as he was nicknamed, scored a total of 9,217 points for an average of 12.4 points per game, with his seasonal best being 16.1 points per game.
During his time in the NBA, Bradley used his fame on the court to explore social and political issues, meeting with journalists, government officials, academics, businesspeople and social activists. He also worked as an assistant to the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, D.C. making contacts in Democratic circles. In 1976, Bill also became an author, with Life on the Run, which chronicled his experiences in the NBA and the people he met along the way.
Bradley retired from basketball in 1977. In 1982, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1984 the Knicks retired his number 24 jersey.
Bradley had harbored political ambitions for years, and in 1978 decided to run for United States Senate in New Jersey, for a seat held by liberal Republican and four-term incumbent Clifford P. Case. Case lost his primary to anti-tax conservative Jeff Bell, and Bradley won the seat in the general election with 55% of the vote.
In the Senate, Bradley acquired a reputation for being somewhat aloof and was thought of as a "policy wonk," specializing in complex reform initiatives. The best known of these was the 1986 overhaul of the federal tax code, which reduced the tax rate schedule to just two brackets, 15% and 28%, and eliminated many kinds of deductions. Although he was a vocal supporter of various left-wing causes and political reform, he sometimes broke ranks with his party to support the Reagan administration (initially supporting, for instance, Reagan's policy of aiding the Contras in Nicaragua).
Some significant domestic policy initiatives which Bradley led or was associated with included: reform of child support enforcement; legislation concerning lead-related children's health problems; the Earned Income Tax Credit; campaign finance reform; and federal budget reform to reduce the deficit, which included, in 1981, supporting President Reagan's spending cuts but opposing his parallel tax cut package, one of only three senators to take this position.
Bradley was re-elected in 1984 with 64% of the vote, and he still retained popularity in New Jersey from his Knicks days and from practices such as his annual Labor Day talk-to-citizens stroll along Jersey Shore beaches. Then a controversy over a state income tax increase, which he refused to take a position on, turned his once-obscure challenger Christine Todd Whitman into a viable candidate; he won by a very small margin. In 1996 he opted not to run for re-election, publicly declaring American politics "broken."
Bradley ran in the 2000 primaries, challenging incumbent Vice President Al Gore for his party's nomination. Bradley campaigned as the liberal alternative to Gore, taking positions to the left of Gore on a number of issues, including universal health care, gun control, and campaign finance reform.
On the issue of taxes, Bradley trumpeted his sponsorship of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which had significantly cut tax rates, while simultaneously abolishing dozens of loopholes. He voiced his belief that that the best possible tax code would be one with low rates and no loopholes, but he refused to rule out the idea of raising taxes to pay for his health care program.
On public education, Bradley reversed his previous support of school vouchers, declaring them to be a failure. He proposed to make over $2 billion in block grants available to each state every year to be used for education. He further promised to bring 60,000 new teachers into the education system annually by offering college scholarships to anyone who agreed to become a teacher after graduating.
Bradley also made child poverty a significant issue in his campaign. Having voted against the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, better known as the "Welfare Reform Act," which, he said, would result in even higher poverty levels, he promised to repeal it as president. He also promised to address the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, allow single parents on welfare to keep their child support payments, make the Dependent Care Tax Credit refundable, build support homes for pregnant teenagers, enroll 400,000 more children in Head Start, and increase the availability of food stamps.
Although Gore was considered the favorite of the party, Bradley did receive a few high-profile endorsements. He was supported by Senators Paul Wellstone, Bob Kerrey, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan; former Senators John A. Durkin and Adlai Stevenson III; Governor John Kitzhaber; former Governors Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. (a former Republican), Mario Cuomo, Ray Mabus, Brendan Byrne, Robert W. Scott, Neil Goldschmidt, Phil Noel, Tony Earl, and Patrick Lucey; Congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Jim McDermott; former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich; former New York City Mayor Ed Koch; former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; and Harvard Professor Cornel West.
Bradley's campaign ultimately floundered, in part because it was overshadowed by Senator John McCain's far more attention-gaining, but ultimately unsuccessful, campaign for the Republican nomination, and in part because it was not able to match Gore's organization once the multiple-primary Super Tuesdays began.
Bradley has mostly stayed out of the limelight since his failed 2000 presidential primary campaign, working mainly as a corporate consultant and investment banker. He serves as a managing director of Allen & Company LLC. He is also chief outside advisor to McKinsey & Company's non-profit practice. In 2005, he joined the advisory board of British corporate investigation firm Hakluyt & Company.
Oxford University awarded Bradley an honorary Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) in 2003, with the comment that he was "An outstandingly distinguished athlete, a weighty pillar of the Senate, and still a powerful advocate of the weak."
Despite some speculation about a second presidential run, he did not run in 2004 and has shown no interest in returning to political office. In 2002, he reportedly turned down a last-minute offer from New Jersey Democrats to replace Robert Torricelli on the ballot for his old Senate seat (Frank Lautenberg accepted it instead). In January of 2004, Bradley endorsed Howard Dean for President in the 2004 Democratic primaries, joining his old rival Al Gore in making that move—the endorsement, however, did not have any apparent effect on Dean's unexpectedly unsuccessful campaign.
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