“Now I understand why men are always proud when they say, ‘Mr. Iba was my coach,’ So am I.” Those words-a fixture in the sponsoring Rotary Club of Tulsa’s IBA Awards programs-were written by former U.S. Senator and former award-winning basketball player Bill Bradley. Bradley is a basketball Hall of Famer, Rhodes Scholar, former U.S. Senator, best-selling author, Olympic Gold Medalist and former United States President Candidate.
Bradley was a basketball legend at his alma mater, Princeton University. He averaged 30.2 points, was named basketball All-American three times, was selected national player of the year in 1965 when he was a senior, and he became the first basketball player to win the Sullivan Award as the country’s outstanding amateur athlete in 1965. He also broke Oscar Robertson’s NCAA Tournament record by scoring 58 points in his final game, against Wichita in the third-place game at the 1965 Final Four. In 1964, Bradley was the captain-and one of the leading scorers-of the United States Olympic basketball team. That team outclassed the field and brought home the gold medal from Tokyo. That team was coached by Mr. Henry Iba. It is this link that prompted Bradley to write the letter to Iba from which the Iba Awards often quotes.
Bradley graduated with honors in American History and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he earned a graduate degree. After Oxford, Bradley joined the New York Knicks in 1967. In his ten-year professional career, he averaged 12.4 points and helped lead the Knicks to win the NBA Championship in 1970 and 1973. He retired from basketball in 1977 and was elected to the Senate from New Jersey in 1979, where he established a well-respected political career of 18 years. Bill Bradley challenged Al Gore for the Democratic nomination for president in 2000. He withdrew from the race in March. Bradley’s books about the passages in his life have enjoyed remarkable success: “Life On The Run,” about his decade with the Knicks, remains a classic in sports literature. “The Fair Tax” helped popularize the ideas that eventually became the Tax Reform Act of 1986. “Time Present . Time Past,” a memoir based largely on his experience as a Senator and his travels throughout the country, was a best-seller for thirteen weeks. Oddly enough, this individual who has distinguished himself in so many of life’s arenas, believes the real emphasis is on the team.