Most BYU basketball fans were understandably disappointed when Shawn Bradley decided to enter the NBA draft immediately following his LDS mission instead of returning to play for the Cougars. Some BYU boosters were downright angry at the 7-6 center for taking the big bucks of the pros rather than helping the successful Cougar hoop program take a major step toward becoming a national title contender.
But Bradley expects a warm welcome back to the Marriott Center Oct. 19 when his present team, the Philadelphia 76ers, plays the Minnesota Timberwolves in an NBA exhibition game."I think I'll get a positive reaction. Most people in Utah that have been totally supportive of me," Bradley said Wednesday from Philadelphia via satellite hookup to a press conference in the Marriott Center. "It should be a good welcome home and a good show for the fans."
Bradley, whose rookie season was cut short after he dislocated his left kneecap in a Feb. 18 collision with Portland's Harvey Grant, will be making his first appearance on the Marriott Center floor since March 1991 when he was a freshman at BYU. The Castle Dale native's injury last season was just two days before he was to make his pro return to Utah in a game against the Jazz in the Delta Center.
Bradley, the second-pick in the 1993 NBA draft, spent two weeks over this summer working out with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
"Kareem is a great guy and, as we all know, is a living legend," Bradley said. "He told me, `You know son, you have good touch on the ball. You can shoot. What I'm going to do is teach you how to get into the right position to be able to shoot effectively.' So that's what we worked on a lot."
Bradley was also trained by former Mr. Olympia Lee Haney this summer in an attempt to bulk up his slim frame. He's gone from 228 pounds when the summer began to 250 at present.
Bradley also had a new addition come into his family recently, as his wife, Annette, gave birth to a daughter Aug. 9. They named the baby Cheyenne.
"I've got to ask him where they came up with the name for the baby. I think if he would have traveled to Laramie and Cheyenne with us a few more times, he would have picked a different name," BYU coach Roger Reid quipped.
"The baby has been the best thing that has every happened to me, other than getting married," Bradley said. "She's made for a lot of sleepless nights, but it's been worth it."
Promoters of the 76ers/Timberwolves game said they had to get special permission from the NBA and the Jazz to arrange Bradley's return to the Marriott Center. "Larry Miller graciously granted permission for a one-time game so that Shawn Bradley could play before his home crowd," said promoter Richard Hall.
The game will also feature ex-Jazzman Jeff Malone of Philadelphia and Minnesota's Mike Brown.
Tickets go on sale Saturday at the Marriott Center Ticket Office.
After the game against the Timberwolves, Bradley and the Sixers will stay in Utah to meet the Jazz in an exhibition game Oct. 24 in the Delta Center.