Princeton unveils portrait of basketball great and politician Bill Bradley ’65

Princeton University unveiled a portrait of alumnus William W. “Bill” Bradley, Class of 1965, at a ceremony Friday, Sept. 9, at Robertson Hall.

Portrait of Bill Bradley, painted by Burton Silverman

Bradley led the Princeton men’s basketball team to an Ivy League title and the NCAA semifinals in Princeton, remains the University’s all-time leading scorer, became a medalist in Olympic gold and NBA champion for the New York Knicks, and served his state and country as a three-term U.S. Senator from New Jersey. He was present with his family, colleagues and friends.

In welcoming attendees to the unveiling, Princeton Chairman Christopher L. Eisgruber said it was difficult to decide where to begin when discussing Bradley’s illustrious career.

“His extraordinary accomplishments, both on and off the pitch, are a testament to the phenomenal work ethic, resilience and strength of character he displayed throughout his life,” Eisgruber said.

He continued, “With this portrait, Senator Bradley will be remembered, not only by those on campus today, but by generations of Princetonians for many decades to come. His legacy at Princeton and his contributions to the nation and to humanity will live on. We are forever grateful for the huge impact Bill has had throughout his career…and for the inspiration he has been to so many of us.

Bradley’s portrait, painted by New York artist Burton Silverman, will hang permanently at the Frist Campus Center.

In his remarks, Bradley was generous in his thanks to Silverman and joked, “I think he grabbed the heart of an aging jock.” The artist was unable to attend the event.

Bradley recounted how he came to Princeton, turning down 75 basketball scholarships before originally choosing Duke University, then changing his mind days before freshman classes started to attend Princeton, where he played for the coach. Willem Hendrik “Butch” Van Breda Kolff, Class of 1945.

“This decision changed my life in fundamental ways,” Bradley said. “It first brought me to New Jersey, which I had the honor of representing for 18 years. It introduced me to the life of the spirit. …And luckily it gave me a college coach who I was totally in tune with about how basketball should be played. And above all, friends, so many friends – many of whom are here today.

Craig Robinson, class of 1983, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, former vice president of the New York Knicks, and himself a decorated Princeton basketball player and Ivy League coach, was on hand to honor Bradley and his legacy on and off the pitch.

Robinson recalled his own Princeton basketball coach, Pete Carril, who recently died at age 92, constantly invoking Bradley’s name in practice. Robinson, a Chicago native, was a Bulls fan and joked that he wasn’t too happy to hear Carril bragging about Bradley at a time when the Knicks regularly punished the Bulls.

After sharing several personal anecdotes, Robinson turned to Bradley at the Dobbs Auditorium signing with a more serious tone.

“I just want you to know how much I appreciated as a student athlete and as a member of society, how you use your athletic character to raise awareness, politically, socially, civically and, above all, morally “Robinson said. “You have been a tremendous inspiration to the Princeton community, to people around the world and especially to Craig Robinson, and so thank you for that.”

Bradley Papers now open to researchers

In addition to his remarks for the unveiling of the portrait, Bradley made an announcement of interest to scholars. In 2018, Princeton University Library acquired the Bill Bradley Papers, an extensive collection of documents and archives chronicling Bradley’s career in the United States Senate, his professional career with the New York Knicks, and his undergraduate years. at Princeton.

At the end of his remarks, Bradley said that his documents in the United States Senate would be open to researchers immediately. They were to be sealed until 2032.

Bradley’s portrait, an oil on canvas, was commissioned by Princeton on the recommendation of the Portrait Nominations Committee, which was convened in 2017.

Deborah Prentice, Rector of the University and Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, gave a keynote address explaining where the Portrait Nominations Committee came from and its impact. Treby Williams, executive vice president of Princeton, who led the campus iconography committee from 2017 to 2019, was also present.

“In recent years, three assessments of Woodrow Wilson’s place in the University’s collective memory have helped bring to light the stark truth that our collection of portraits does not fully reflect Princeton’s history, present and aspirations. for the future,” Prentice said. “The committee, which includes students, faculty and staff, has been tasked with making recommendations for the expansion of the University’s portrait collection to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to Princeton, but whose legacy has not been properly recognized.”

The University began to diversify its portrait collection in 2017 with commissions honoring Toni Morrison and Sir W. Arthur Lewis, both Nobel Laureates. Princeton then announced in 2018 that it would commission eight new portraits, including that of Bradley, to recognize individuals who, over the past 75 years, have been preeminent in a particular field, who have excelled in service to the nation and to the service to humanity, or have made a significant contribution to the culture of Princeton.

The other seven winners of the 2018 commissions are Denny Chin, Class of 1975; Carl A. Fields; Elaine Fuchs, 1977 graduate; Robert J. Rivers, class of 1953; Ruth Simmons; Sonia Sotomayor, class of 1976; and Alan M. Turing, a 1938 graduate.

The portraits of Chin, Fields, Rivers and Turing were dedicated in a ceremony held in 2019. The portraits of Fuchs and Simmons are scheduled to be unveiled on November 16. Plans to unveil Sotomayor’s portrait have yet to be announced.


Attendees at the portrait unveiling and reception spanned generations – from Bradley’s family, colleagues and friends to current students. Speakers at the unveiling included (left to right) Craig Robinson, Class of 1983, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches; Senator Bradley; President Eisgruber; and the university’s vice president, Deborah Prentice.

“A sense of where you are”, from the basketball court to the Senate chambers

Both as a student athlete and as a national and international leader, Bradley has embodied Princeton’s philosophy of excellence and service.

Princeton Journalism Program Senior Fellow John McPhee, who in 1965 wrote a founding profile of Bradley “A Sense of Where You Are,” which appeared in The New Yorker and later became McPhee’s first book, n was unable to attend the portrait unveiling ceremony. .

In an email, McPhee recounted a Bradley moment at Princeton that has remained vivid in his mind since 1965, when Princeton’s basketball team beat Providence by 40 points in the NCAA Regional Finals.

“Bill got on the bus that took the team back to the center of the Princeton campus,” McPhee wrote. “A scarf flying over one shoulder, he addressed the thousands of students who had swarmed around the bus. The affection for his teammates and for the school around him shone through in everything he said, feelings he would never lose. He is still on top of the bus and his likeness has evolved into a lasting portrait.

Bradley played for the Princeton basketball team while studying history as an undergrad. During these years, he also captained the gold-medal winning Olympic men’s basketball team in 1964.

He led Princeton to three league championships and its only NCAA Final Four spot. He went on to play for 10 seasons with the New York Knicks, winning the NBA title in 1970 and 1973, and he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

A Rhodes Scholar, Bradley turned to politics after concluding his basketball career. He served in the United States Senate from 1979 to 1997, and in 2000 he was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He is now the Managing Director of Allen & Company LLC. Bradley is the author of six New York Times bestselling books and hosts a SiriusXM radio show, “American Voices.” He is a former member of the Princeton Board of Trustees and won Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Award in 1987.

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