December 9, 1967: Bill Bradley makes his NBA debut with the Knicks
Bill “Dollar Bill” Bradley made his NBA debut on this date in a matchup against the Detroit Pistons. Coincidentally, his first NBA game was in Madison Square Garden. Despite the fact that the Knicks lost 124-121, Bradley played 20 minutes and scored 8 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and dished 2 assists.
Dollar Bill grew up as a standout athlete and intellect. Despite receiving many college scholarships, he chose to attend Princeton University to receive the education necessary to work in the US government or as a diplomat.
The Knicks drafted Bradley in 1965 under a then-unique provision called the “territorial rule.” The territorial rule gave NBA teams first rights to draft college players who played within 50 miles of the professional team. The New York Knicks & the Philadelphia 76ers were both nearby, but the former (Knicks) received priority as New York City was one mile closer to Princeton than Philadelphia.1 The territorial rule was eliminated after the 1965 draft.
Bradley deferred his debut for 2 years to study in Oxford University under a Rhodes Scholarship and enlisted in the Air Force for 6 months. While in Oxford, he played basketball with Olympia Milano and He left the Air Force early to join the Knicks in December. Because Bradley missed the entire preseason, he spent most of his rookie season acclimating to the league.
Dollar Bill eventually acclimated to the league and was an integral piece to the Knicks’ two championships. Bradley ventured in politics after the NBA and served three teams as US Senator in New Jersey. Bradley was elected into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1983.