UT’s Stark Center, Bill Bradley Celebrate Basketball’s Legacy

Bill Bradley has worn many hats over the years—Rhodes Scholar, NBA Hall-of-Famer, U.S. senator, and presidential candidate, to name a few.

At yesterday’s “Basketball and American Culture” symposium on the Forty Acres, he added yet another title: UT keynote speaker.

Hosted by UT’s H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, the symposium was part of a campus-wide celebration of having James Naismith’s “Original Rules of Basketball” document on display at the Blanton Museum of Art. A Massachusetts Y.M.C.A. instructor, Naismith penned the document—which features 13 rules for a sport he’d created called “basket ball”—in 1891.

Legendary former women’s head basketball coach Jody Conradt was at the Alumni Center Thursday to introduce Sen. Bradley, calling his story “movie material.” Bradley won two national championships with the New York Knicks in the ’70s and a gold medal with the USA Olympic team before becoming a three-term U.S. senator for New Jersey.

“I sort of know why your life has been so successful, thought it’s not evident to everyone,” Conradt joked in her introduction. “It’s because your mother played high school basketball.”

Bradley took to the podium to share a personal reminiscence of his basketball career, which began when his mother installed a hoop in his backyard when he was 9.

“Basketball is one of the greatest sports because all you need is a rim, a ball, and imagination,” he said.

Drawing on his 2000 book Values of the Game—which he calls a “love letter to basketball”—Bradley described how he learned discipline, selflessness, and resilience on the court.

“Our country is built on individualism, but basketball studies something different,” he said. “One player is simply one point on a five-pointed star.”

In addition to Bradley’s keynote speech, the afternoon featured talks by American Studies professor Daniel Nathan, Texas A&M sociology professor Reuben Buford May, and University of Massachusetts journalism professor Madeleine Blais, who have all published acclaimed books on the sport that is close to many hearts.

“I consider myself more a basketball player than anything else,” Bradley said. “My greatest thrill was winning the NBA Championship twice. My greatest honor was being reelected to the Senate for three terms.”

The Stark Center’s “Basketball and American Culture” symposium was part of a campus-wide tribute to Naismith’s “Original Rules.” The Blanton Museum of Art’s The Rules of Basketball exhibit will be on display until Jan. 13, and the Harry Ransom Center’s Basketball: Power in Play exhibit will be on display until Dec. 9.

Photo by Taylor Barron. Courtesy the Daily Texan.


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