An interesting documentary about former BYU basketball player Shawn Bradley was released by the sports and pop culture website Grantland this morning. The short documentary explores the NBA player Bradley, who was often a target of opposing players looking for a highlight dunk, and the human Bradley, who has done a lot with his life by serving his church, his family, and students at the West Ridge academy in Utah.
As a high school star for Emery High School in Castle Dale, Utah, Shawn Bradley broke every block record available in the state of Utah. He once tallied 17 blocks in a single game against Manti. Due to his dominance in the prep ranks, many colleges recruited the big man and he ultimately decided on attend BYU.
As a freshman for BYU, Bradley averaged 5.2 blocks a game, with a total of 177 over the course of the season, both records for a freshman at the time. BYU made it to the NCAA tournament that year and defeated Virginia in the first round, a game in which Bradley had 10 blocks. The Cougars didn't get too much farther that year and were defeated by Arizona in the second round.
Shawn decided to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after his freshman season and upon returning decided to enter the NBA draft. Not very many LDS players, if any, have been able to make a similar move, but it was thought at the time that Bradley would revolutionize the pro game. He was drafted 2nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers and decided to wear number 76, a nod to his height and the name of the team. Many Cougar fans at the time hoped that he would stay in college and lead the team to some deep runs in the NCAA tournament, but he could hardly be blamed for passing up the chance to be drafted so highly.
Despite being known best for being dunked on, Bradley carved out a 12 year career in the NBA and is 14th on the list of total career blocks. He also averaged over eight points and six rebounds per game during the course of his career. I once went to a game when Bradley was playing for the Dallas Mavericks. During warm ups, Bradley did a back jam without leaving the ground, my brother and I thought it was one of the coolest things we had ever seen. We were both barely able to grab the rim at this point of our lives and the fact that a man could dunk without leaving the ground was pretty incredible to us.
As the documentary shifts it talks about the man that Shawn Bradley has become. Bradley lists one of his greatest accomplishments as staying married to his wife during his time in the NBA and raising 6 children. He has run for government office, participated in many charitable events, coached his kids in sports and spent time trying to make a positive impact on children at the West Ridge Academy.
Another of Shawn Bradley's contributions was playing a role in the movie Space Jam. He mentions his Latter-day Saint faith and makes light of his enormous height. I remember watching this show as a little kid and being so excited that someone who shared my faith was in a movie, let alone a movie with Michael Jordan!
Shawn Bradley is living the life he wants to live. He's serving others, spending time with his family, and doing what he can to make a difference. Being "Posterized" can certainly have a negative stigma attached to it, especially as dunks over opponents are celebrated and highlighted every night on television, but the real celebration is that Shawn is touching individual lives every day and there's no television to highlight any of it.