This marks the 30th anniversary of USA TODAY recognizing the nation's top high school athletes. As we prepare to unveil the 2013 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Boys Basketball Team at the end of the season, we'll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. Today, we catch up with 1990 ALL-USA player Shawn Bradley from Emery (Castle Dale, Utah), who retired in 2005 after a 12-year career in the NBA.
MORE: American Family Insurance ALL-USA Homepage
Shawn Bradley wasn’t about to disappear when he retired from the NBA eight years ago. When you’re 7-6, there’s no such thing as fading into the background.
Most of Bradley’s focus is on wife Annette and their six children in Murray, Utah. But he’s also found time to run for the state House of Representatives, dabble in real estate, ride his custom-made bicycle in a few 100-mile rides, take an active role in several charities, chair the board of a school for at-risk teens, work on his family’s ranch near Roosevelt in central Utah and even play guitar in a YouTube video promoting Jimmer Fredette.
“That was not one of my better moments,” Bradley says of the video. “When the right guy calls, you do something like that. I felt ridiculous (he was wearing a BYU letter jacket and a wig that looked as if it was borrowed from a mop). When we first got there, I said, ‘If (former BYU football coach) LaVell Edwards is not walking through those doors, I’m gone.’ But he showed up and if he was willing to do that, so was I. Luckily, my teenage daughters were not embarrassed by it. To them, it was just dad being dad.”
Bradley’s work at West Ridge Academy is a bit more serious.
“We bring in kids who have significant behavior issues,” Bradley says. “We try to get them to understand their self worth. We want to get to them before they get into the (correctional) system. The kids at school may not recognize me from the NBA but they may recognize me for Space Jam or for being tall.”
Bradley was the most successful of the 1990 First-Team All-USA players who made it to the NBA, averaging 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game over 12 seasons. Still, he was often criticized for not being more dominant, considering his height.
“I know how hard I worked,” Bradley says. “I know the values that I stayed true to. I took a lot of flak for putting my family first. If I have to take flak for that, sign me up. I won’t change that.”
He spends a lot of time shuttling teenage daughters Cheyenne, Ciera, Chelsea and Charity to various sports events. He even coached Ciera's soccer team.
“They told me, ‘Shawn, you’re the last parent we called.’ No pressure there,” he says. “I had 10-year-old girls on the team and I knew nothing about soccer. At our first meeting, I asked each of the girls to tell me one rule about soccer. We only lost one game and it was a lot of fun.”
He also spends a lot of time with his sons, Chance, 10, and Chase, 7, though they haven’t established a sports preference.
“I took my 10 year-old to a bull sale in Vernal the other day,” he says. “We didn’t get our No. 1 choice, but for the price of that one bull, we were able to get two Angus bulls. To him, finding a pocket knife in the dirt made it, “The best day ever.” Later that day, we shot some rifles at targets and he said it was an even greater day in his life. Those are the moments you live for.”
While he lost his bid for state representative in 2010 to democrat Tim Cosgrove, Bradley may not have given up on politics.
“I lost by 278 votes and I took off for five or six weeks in the middle of the campaign after my father (Reiner, who had played basketball at Nevada Reno) passed away,” Bradley says. “I had a lot going on. It was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t win. I don’t know if I’ve caught the bug, but there is an interest in politics for me. It is important for people to serve.”
In some cases, that may mean outside the country. A few years ago, Bradley traveled with his family to southern India to help with Rising Star Outreach, a charity that works with leper colonies. He and his wife are on the charity’s board of directors and sponsor some of the children in the colonies.
“The (charity) helps the colonists who have no social ability to raise their station,” Bradley says. “They are considered cursed and if anyone in the family has leprosy, they would all be shunned. Even they themselves see themselves as cursed. We were with a medical team that helped them treat their wounds. Leprosy can be cured with a shot, but the scars don’t go away. We take the kids who are affected and put them in a school and work with local businesses to mentor these kids. We’re just trying to help break some of the social stigmas they face.”
Bradley in high school. / USA TODAY Sports