Is Bradley long on skill, as well? 7-6 center unlike past big men

June 30, 1993|By Charlie Vincent | Charlie Vincent,Knight-Ridder News Service

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- In the NBA, they're used to big.

But they will have to get used to Shawn Bradley.

The 7-foot-6 center, who came to the Palace at Auburn Hills yesterday for tonight's NBA draft, probably will be the second player chosen -- behind Chris Webber. A lot of NBA hotshots came to the Detroit area at the same time, and so did a bunch of little shots -- reporters, mostly.

When Detroit Free Press photographer John Collier asked Bob Lanier to pose with Bradley, the 6-foot-11 former Piston started to shy away.

"Man, you're gonna make me look small," Lanier said, laughing.

When the five leading draft prospects were asked later to gather for a photo, the 6-9 Webber, standing next to Bradley, stood on tiptoes.

Bradley is a phenomenon to the NBA: a player more than 7-2 who has superstar potential.

Big is certainly not foreign to the NBA.

Wilt Chamberlain was 7-1, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 7-2. They were among the game's all-time greatest players.

Mark Eaton is 7-4; he has made a living playing for the Utah Jazz for 11 seasons; Manute Bol is 7-7; his height allowed him to come to the United States from Sudan and play the past eight seasons with three NBA teams. But to call either a great basketball player would be a stretch.

The Pistons have tried some of the big guys: 7-5 Chuck Nevitt played two-plus seasons for Detroit and scored 132 points -- total -- and 7-2 Petur Gudmundsson didn't even get through training camp, although he did play for three other NBA teams. Then there was 7-1 William Bedford.

Somewhere just above 7-feet, it seems, there is an invisible line where agility and height refuse to commingle. Where big becomes only awkward and height not necessarily an asset.

Shawn Bradley is the exception.

He is not even the tallest player in this draft -- Mike Lanier of UCLA is 7-7. Lanier, though, is a prototype of the extra-tall player. He played in only 19 games in two seasons at UCLA, didn't score a field goal in his senior year, and has been more handicapped by his height than enriched by it.

There is an implied burden on tall people; they must play basketball. And they must play it well.

Bradley grew up with that.

When he was a kid, other children teased him, just as you would expect. He suffered hurt feelings a few times, ran home to his mother and got a Band-Aid of maternal love.

"My mom taught me she loved me and God loved me and 8 nothing else mattered," Bradley said yesterday. ". . . If I was 7-10, I'd love that, too."

I have not seen Bradley play basketball; no one has seen him play basketball in the United States for the past two years. After his freshman season at Brigham Young, he went on a two-year mission to Australia for the Mormon Church, and since he returned a month ago he has refused to go through supervised workouts.

So I don't know if he will be a superstar, even though that's the expectation of someone drafted second or third.

What I do know is that I have never met a more positive-thinking person.

If attitude and belief can overcome, Bradley will succeed:

"I've just got to remember who I am, what I stand for and where I come from, and I'll be all right."

On the eve of the draft, Bradley was promising nothing to anyone, except to give it an honest try. Mention that no NBA

superstars have stood taller than 7-2, and he looks wary.

"It's almost as if you imply I'm going to be a superstar," he said. "I'm going to play the best I can. But I've been away from the game two years and I realize I've lost a little bit.

"My goal is to be the best I can be for as long as I can, wherever I play."

He will be drafted tonight -- probably by Philadelphia -- and soon he will put his name on a contract worth $10 million or so, because a lot of people in the NBA think Shawn Bradley is the exception -- height, agility and perhaps best of all, a wonderful attitude.

1993 NBA DRAFT

When: Tonight, 7:30

Where: Palace at Auburn Hills, Mich.

Rounds: Two

TV: TNT

Order:

1. Orlando

2. Philadelphia

3. Golden State

4. Dallas

5. Minnesota

6. Washington

7. Sacramento

8. Milwaukee

9. Denver

10. Detroit

11. Detroit

12. L.A. Lakers

13. L.A. Clippers

14. Indiana

15. Atlanta

16. New Jersey

17. Charlotte

18. Utah

19. Boston

20. Charlotte

21. Portland

22. Cleveland

JTC 23. Seattle

24. Houston

25. Chicago

26. Orlando

27. Phoenix

Local watch: Fans can follow the draft at the Capital Centre in Landover. Doors open at 7 p.m. There is a $5 admission charge for non-season-ticket holders that will go to the Bullets' Stay in School program.

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