Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Shawn Bradley Is Terrible

Perceptions are everything and often wrong. This is from June 8, 2014. Last Thursday during our basketball camp, I asked one of the young men who played for our WCS boys' team what he thought of ex-NBA player, Shawn Bradley. Without hesitation, he answered, "He was terrible, Coach!" I countered with several facts. Bradley is 16th all-time in blocked shots in the NBA. He had a 12 year career and was the 2nd overall pick in the 1993 draft. On top of that, he made seventy million dollars playing the game. I could have also thrown in that Shawn Bradley once led the league in blocked shots for a season but I would have been wasting my breath. The young man would not be swayed. "He's terrible, Coach!" You know, that's a pretty common assessment of Shawn Bradley. From a town of 1,000 in Utah, Bradley, who is 7'6", played at Brigham Young University and served a two year mission in Australia before making himself eligible for the NBA draft upon his return. There were a number of basketball experts who predicted professional stardom for Bradley, some even foreseeing his revolutionizing roundball. It was not to be.

If you're wondering how all of this Shawn Bradley interest came up, it coincided with my watching an ESPN 30 For 30 twelve minute documentary on Bradley called Posterized, the title referring to the famous dunk shown at the top of this entry. In that famous sequence, the Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady is shown jamming the ball over the much bigger Bradley, which turned out to be a common occurrence if you look on YouTube. The director, Andrew Jenks, was unable for months to arrange an interview with Bradley so much of the interaction comes from talking with the delightfully acerbic coach of the Rockets at the time of the play, Jeff Van Gundy, who was in the background of the dunk's film version. JVG, as he is often referred to in basketball circles, gave some intriguing analysis of Bradley as a player, comparing him to three other formidable big men he coached; Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming, Patrick Ewing. Van Gundy was much more charitable to Bradley than our WCS player and offered observations on his career which were fascinating. But I still wanted to hear from Bradley himself.

Finally, Andrew Jenks was able to set up an interview with Bradley and it made me really appreciate the ex-76er/Net/Maverick. He was apologetic for putting off Jenks but made the comment that the media had often been critical of him. He told a little bit of his life story in and out of basketball, including his devotion to his family and his church. I really liked what he said about his wife, that his greatest accomplishment in the NBA was staying married in an arena where gorgeous women make themselves available to the players non-stop. He told about how the front office of the Philadelphia 76ers set up a players-only dinner with the location being a topless bar and how he refused to go, even at the threat of a $10,000 fine. Our world would be so much better if all of us, let alone celebrities, held ourselves to high standards of conduct.

How do we want to be remembered? One of the film/sound bites of the 30 For 30 came from Sixty Minutes clips made while he was still in college. Bradley was asked if he'd ever been interviewed and not been asked about his height. His response was that he wasn't sure if anyone had ever spoken to him without his height being mentioned. Near the end of the ESPN show, Bradley tells how he researched and thinks he is one of only thirty or so folks on the planet who are his size. Imagine, never being able to blend into a crowd anywhere on earth! And maybe that's why his basketball career was such a disappointment to some- that tall and yet that, and I hate to use the word, average. As the Bradley piece was winding to a close, they talked about some things most folks don't know about him. How he and his wife have worked in leper colonies in India. How he has made multiple trips to combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to support our troops. How he now works as a principal in a high school for at-risk kids in Salt Lake City, helping turning their lives around one step at a time. And how he serves as a volunteer soccer coach for his daughter's team. And how he and his lovely bride have surpassed twenty years of marriage. Still, to many in the world who enthusiastically follow sports, Shawn Bradley can be defined by one word; terrible. I only wish I could be that bad. 

*Note: I talked to Trey Austin, our WCS boys' coach and camp director, about what I was going to write. Trey, a Westbury alumni, played major college basketball and professionally overseas. He told me how easy it is to fall into the trap of not thinking NBA players are good. He talked about playing against bench players in the NBA and how unbelievably talented they are, but the fan cannot always see that side of it.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Whose to judge him? Look at all he's accomplished. You're judging him on a twelve year period. He should be judged over the course of his life and what he's able to bring to this world."
Jeff Van Gundy (Speaking about Shawn Bradley on 30 For 30)

To watch the ESPN show I wrote about, copy and paste this link. It's well worth twelve minutes!

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

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