Mavs From the Past: Shawn Bradley

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Shawn Bradley was an exceptional basketball, football, and baseball player at Emery High School in Castle Dale, Utah where he was raised. In high school, he averaged 20.3 points per game (PPG), 11.5 rebounds per game (RPG), and 5.4 blocks per game (BPG). In his senior year alone, he averaged 25 PPG, 17 RPG, and 9 BPG. During his time there, the team compiled a record of 68-4, along with two state championships. Bradley was a three-time All-State selection and won two MVP awards in high school.

He participated in the McDonald’s All-American Game in his senior year and was named Co-MVP of the game. He scored 12 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked six shots. He was named Utah Mr. Basketball in his junior year. He was selected on the Parade All-American third-team his junior year. As a senior, he was named to the Parade All-American second-team.

Bradley holds the Utah high school state record for most blocks in a game (17), season (208), and career (506).

College Years

For college, Bradley decided to attend Brigham Young University. He started in all 34 games at BYU. He averaged 14.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 5.2 BPG. He led the team in all three categories. In a game against Eastern Kentucky University, Bradley tied the NCAA single-game blocks record at that time, 14 blocks, that was set by David Robinson in 1986. Bradley also scored 29 points in that same game, which was a career-high for him up to that point. The team finished the regular season 17-12, placed second in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), and made the NCAA tournament. BYU made the tournament as the No. 10 in the West Region. In the first-round matchup against No. 7 seed, the University of Virginia, Bradley set a tournament single-game record when he recorded 10 blocked shots in the game and led the team to a victory over Virginia. BYU, however, was eliminated in the following round by the No. 2 seed, the University of Arizona. He led the entire country in total blocks with 177 and blocks per game with 5.2 per game, which set an NCAA freshman record in both categories. Bradley also received several honors and awards, including WAC Freshman of the Year, All-WAC defensive team, All-WAC second-team, and was an honorable mention to the Associated Press All-American team.

Bradley then took a two-year leave away from BYU to serve as a full-time missionary for the Church of Latter-day Saints. He served his missionary time in Sydney, Australia. When he returned from his mission, he decided to forego his final three years of NCAA eligibility and instead declared for the 1993 NBA Draft.

Welcome to the NBA

Bradley was selected 2nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1993 NBA Draft. 76er’s brass saw long-term potential in Bradley and in his first year, he was put into the starting center spot, as he started in 45 out of the 49 games he played. He averaged 10.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 3.0 BPG in his first season. He sustained a season-ending knee injury in February that kept him out for the rest of the season. The numbers he put up before the injury were enough to earn him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie second team.

He played another season and a half with the 76ers. During his second season with the team, he took part in all 82 games. Bradley’s time in Philadelphia helped him get accustomed to the NBA style of play, he gradually improved how he played the game, especially his greatest strength, blocking shots.

Even with his impressive blocking skills, the 76ers were not as impressed with his offense and he was traded to the New Jersey Nets a month into the 1995 season. 

During his time in New Jersey, Bradley improved his offensive and blocking skills, going from an average of 9.7 PPG and 3.2 BPG in his tenure with the 76ers to 12.3 PPG and 3.8 BPG in his tenure with the Nets.

Dallas Welcomes Bradley Home

The Dallas Mavericks traded for Bradley halfway through the 1997 season.

As soon as he arrived in Dallas he took hold of the starting center job. In his first half-season on the team, Bradley started 32 out of 33 games he participated in. He averaged 14.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 2.7 BPG. Bradley averaged 3.4 BPG in the overall season and was honored by being named the blocks champions for the season. This was the first time that any Mavericks player led the NBA in any statistical category.

The following seasons his scoring, rebounding, and assists began to slowly decrease but the one thing that stayed strong for him was his shot-blocking abilities. Bradley averaged 11.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 3.3 BPG in 64 games played. Out of the 64 games he played in, he started in 46 of them. His strong defense in the paint was what Dallas was missing before his arrival on the team.

The 1998-99 season continued to see a decrease in Bradley’s offensive abilities but he still was an imposing defensive presence for the Mavericks. He started in 33 out of his 49 games played. He averaged 8.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 3.2 BPG for the season.

The following season saw a decline in his blocks per game along with all his other stats that were already going downward. He averaged 8.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 2.5 BPG while he started in 54 out of 77 games. Even though Bradley was on the decline, the Mavericks were on the rise as they finished the season 40-42, their best season in a decade.

The Playoff Years

The Mavericks and Bradley were finally rewarded for all their hard work in the 2000-01 season. Bradley became more of a bench player that season as he started in 35 out of the 82 games. He averaged 7.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 2.8 BPG. The Mavericks finished the season 53-29 and made the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Western Conference. In the first round of the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks beat the fourth seed, Utah Jazz, in five games. They then lost to the first place team in the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs, in five games. In Bradley’s first NBA playoffs, he started all 10 games and averaged 6.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 3.0 BPG for the team.

He shifted back to a bench role for the team the following season. He still started in 16 games out of the 53 he played. His stats took another dive with him coming predominantly off the bench. He averaged 4.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 1.2 BPG. The Mavericks made the playoffs again, this time as the fourth seed in the Western Conference, after finishing the season 57-25. They swept the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round. Another Western Conference Semifinals defeat would be suffered by the Dallas Mavericks in five games, this time at the hands of the Sacramento Kings.

The following season he continued his role off the bench but still got to see some time as a starter. He played in all but one game during the season and started in 39 of them. All of his stats went up from the year prior as he averaged 6.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 2.1 BPG. The Mavericks finished the season with their best record in franchise history up to that point, 60-22, and they entered the playoffs as the third seed in the Western Conference. They beat the Portland Trailblazers in a heated first-round matchup that went all the way to game seven. They then beat the Kings in a hard-fought semifinals round that also went seven games. A grueling six-game West Conference Finals series against their rival, the Spurs, ended in defeat for Dallas after their franchise player, Dirk Nowitzki, got injured in game three of the series. Bradley played limited time in 17 of the games during the playoffs and even got to start in seven of them. He averaged 2.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.2 SPG, and 0.9 BPG during the playoffs.

His role on the Mavericks grew smaller the following season as he was relegated purely to a bench role in all but a handful of games. Bradley played in 66 games throughout the season but only started in five of them. He averaged 3.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 1.1 BPG. The Mavericks again made the playoffs for a fourth straight year as they finished the regular season with a 52-30 record. After entering the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Western Conference, they were eliminated in five games by the Kings. Bradley only got to step on the court in two of those games and it was for a combined 1.5 minutes per game (MPG). He didn’t put up any numbers in the minuscule time he got to be on the court during the playoffs.

The 2004-05 season would be Bradley’s final season in the NBA. He started in 14 out of the 77 games he played in. He put up 2.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 0.8 BPG in the limited time he got. The Mavericks finished the season 58-24 and were the fourth seed in the Western Conference. In the first round of the playoffs, they defeated the Houston Rockets in seven games. Dallas then got eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals in six games by the Phoenix Suns. Bradley averaged 1.3 PPG, 0.9 RPG, and 0.3 BPG in the very limited playing time he got in seven games.

Bradley averaged 7.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, and 2.1 BPG during his Mavericks tenure. He contributed significantly on defense especially when it came to getting blocks. While all his other skills slowly diminished, his ability to block shots stayed fairly consistent throughout his career and was always his biggest strength.

Charity Work

Bradley has worked with many different charities throughout the years. For every blocked shot he had during the 2000-01 season, he donated $25 to Bryan’s House, a facility that helps children with HIV, AIDS, and special needs.

Other charity works that he’s done include being the spokesman for the Children’s Medical Network Hospitals and he also took part in the “Basketball Without Borders” program that the NBA organized.

After retiring Bradley became involved with a coeducational private school for at-risk kids, West Ridge Academy, in West Jordan, Utah. He’s helped mentor the youth there and has given them advice for such things as hardships and having to conquer obstacles in life. 

Acting Career

Bradley’s first and most memorable acting job was playing himself in the 1996 movie, Space Jam, alongside other NBA stars of the 90s. He also appeared as himself in an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. He played a mechanic in the 2002 movie, The Singles Ward. In 2012, he appeared on an episode of a sketch comedy show called Studio C. Bradley was also featured on the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, Posterized.

Personal Life

Bradley had six children with his first wife, Annette Evertson. The couple later divorced. He then married his second wife, Carrie Cannon, and adopted her three children in 2019.

In 2010, he ran as a Republican candidate for the 44th District seat in the Utah House of Representatives. Bradley would go on to lose that election later in the year.

In January 2021, Bradley was in a traumatic accident when he was struck by a minivan while riding his bicycle which caused him to become paralyzed from the chest down. He was rushed to the hospital and had surgery. He spent three weeks in the ICU and was diagnosed as a C6 quadriplegic. In an interview with Sports Illustrated in early 2022, he explained how difficult life and rehab have been due to his height and other factors. In the past year, Bradley completed some of his rehabilitation in Dallas and he is planning to move there to continue his rehab. He also wants to teach others about the importance of bike safety.

Legacy

Bradley had a memorable basketball career. He helped his team on offense and predominately on defense, whether he was a starter or coming off the bench. When he was in high school, college, and in the early stages of his NBA career, he was rewarded for his excellent blocking abilities and style of play with awards and honors. Unfortunately, his life has taken a turn for the worse due to the bicycle accident but Bradley is still keeping a smile and being optimistic that one day he will be able to move again on his own accord. He accepted whatever role he was put in and gave his all to the Mavericks organization and the city of Dallas. Bradley’s time in Dallas is remembered and cherished by all Mavs fans for life.



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