(“Dispatches from the Dark” will bring us the few bright lights of enlightened ball that emerged from harrowing pagan bleakness of the Pre-Iverson 90′s. A period universally known as the “Dark Ages” of Sixers basketball.)
“Amidst the errors there shone forth men of genius; no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness” -Petrarch
The Sixers Dark Ages were in full swing by 1992-93 season. The first year in the post Barkley era saw the Hornacek/Weatherspoon Sixers win just 24 games, and find themselves with the 2nd pick in the 1993 draft. In a desperate bid to reverse the franchises fortunes they passed on future All-stars Anfernee Hardaway and Jamaal Mashburn, and swung for the fences by drafting the giant, noodley, Mormon from Brigham Young university, Shawn Bradley.
Maybe they believed they could mold this raw specimen into a basketball masterpiece… Maybe they thought the reflection off his nearly translucent skin would bring their darkness to an end… Maybe his elongated form echoed the iconographic depictions dominant in this periods art… But these answers are now lost to time, we only know that the Bradley era had begun.
Bradley measured in at 7’6 inches in height and (more relevantly) an alleged standing reach of 10’2 inches (!). To reiterate, when Sean Bradley stood with his hands up, he could touch a basketball hoop. Bradley further tantalized with soft hands and surprising fleetness for a pasty, 10 foot long, spagetti-man.
On the flipside, he weighed an absurdly light 230 pounds, and (more relevantly) he hadn’t played very much basketball. Just one year at the not-exactly-hoops-powerhouse of Brigham Young. Bradley didn’t show much court awareness, but blocked a ton of shots. After that single season, he decides to answer the calling of his Mormon faith and depart on a 2 year mission to spread Another Gospel of Jesus Christ with the aboriginal people of Australia. presumably he didn’t play much basketball.
Bradley’s first college game… suprisingly mobile, showing a dropstep at 6:30 mark, and even getting downcourt on a fast break a couple possessions later. Also he clearly has no idea what he’s doing. (sorry for the grainy video quality, Bradley is the really tall, skinny, white guy)
He occasionally showed flashes of this mobility in his rookie year with Sixers…
This match up with a young Shaq perfectly captured his strengths and limitations. ( From 3:00 to 6:00 is especially telling, also a sick 14 foor Hook Shot banker at 7:30)
But sadly, those moments were fleeting, and while Bradley inevitably blocked his share of shots, the career of Shawn Bradley was a lot of this…
And it’s never a good sign when a television program compiles a “Top 10 all time Dunks on Shawn Bradley” Segment…
And we cant go without showing the Werner Herzogesque surrealism of a 10 foot-long human being, dressed in white, being picked up off the ground and body slammed
Ultimately, the darkness continued unabated, with the sixers winning one fewer game in each Bradley season. The Sixers called off the Shawn Bradley experiment after just over 2 seasons. Bradley would play for another decade with the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks, settling in, kind of, as a shot blocking role player. All told Bradley finished his career with 2,119 Blocks. Good for 14th on the all time list between Marcus Camby and Manute Bol.
And he was in Space Jam…