Media junkies eat up the moments when politics and show biz intersect. Whether the merging occurs with the Rat Pack singing the national anthem at the 1960 Democratic Convention, with "The Price Is Right" host Bob Barker holding a Capitol Hill press conference on animal rights or with the possible candidacies of almost any of the potential Reform Party presidential nominees, there is something quintessentially American about such gatherings. Maybe it's the voyeuristic multitasking that such an eclipse provides us all.
Bill Bradley's gala fund-raiser at Madison Square Garden Sunday was a shining example of this merging in action, especially for sports nuts, as almost half of the NBA's "50 greatest players" were on hand to back up the former senator from New Jersey.
Among those participating in the event were:
Abdul-Jabbar, the former Los Angeles Laker and the NBA's all-time
leading scorer with 38,387 points.
- Dave Bing, who
now works in the steel industry and has been named the "National
Small Business Person of the Year" and "National Minority Supplier of
- Bob "the Cooz"
Cousy, a former Boston Celtic and one of the first players to put
a little flash in the game as an innovator who replaced traditional, conservative ball handling with all sorts of light-fingered tricks.
- Dave DeBusschere, who, as Bradley's roommate, played on both the '70 and '73 world champion Knicks teams. He is now one of the most active former players on the Bradley campaign, having held a summer fund-raiser for Bradley at his house in the Hamptons for 80 people -- most of whom were Republicans who "left saying, 'I can vote for him,'" according to DeBusschere.
- Julius "Dr. J." Erving, the classy, brilliant leader of the 1983 world-champion Philadelphia 76ers, whose secret paternity of a tennis star daughter only recently came to light.
- Jerry Lucas, a member of the '73 Knicks team who professes to be a memory expert.
- Walt "Clyde"
Frazier, who was also on both the world-champion Knicks teams with Bradley and once said that he knew his former coach, Red Holzman, meant business when he fined the well-paid Bradley for being late to a team meeting ("He fined Bill Bradley," Frazier recalled. "When that happened, everybody in the room sat straight.") Frazier, who is now a Knicks broadcaster, is quickly developing a trademark habit of inventing questionable rhymes -- like "Sprewell is
levitating and creating on the way to the hoop," or "Ewing mesmerized and trivialized on the way to block that shot."
Havlicek, the former Boston Celtic opponent Bradley has said he hated guarding the most. Havlicek, one of the best "sixth men" ever, was immortalized when he stole a ball at the end of a
1965 Eastern Conference final game against Philadelphia, guaranteeing the Celtics the division title -- upon which Celtics radio announcer Johnny Most gave the play-by-play action the "Giants win the pennant!" treatment, repeating "Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball!" over and over.
- Moses Malone, a moody and inarticulate star of the 1983 champion 76ers team, one of the first and few players to go directly from high school to the pros (and not, it should be clarified, the Utah Jazz's Karl Malone, who has endorsed
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and recently posed for a controversial "I'm the NRA" ad ).
- Willis Reed, the former Knicks team captain who was an inspiration in the seventh game of the 1970 Finals against the Lakers, when he briefly played with a badly injured knee. Reed has had problems similarly inspiring the tragically impotent New Jersey Nets, for whom he has served as general manager.
- Oscar "the Big O" Robertson, the only player to average a triple-double in one season (meaning he achieved double digits in three categories -- in
this case points, rebounds and assists), which he achieved for the 1961-62 Cincinnati Royals.
Russell, the enigmatic, trailblazing star who changed the game of basketball because he was so good that he swatted away shots to the point that the "goaltending" rule was initiated. He led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years, and later, as the first black coach in the NBA, was outspoken on the issue of race -- something that didn't always endear him to the Celtics' knuckle-headed fans.
Schayes, arguably the best Jew to ever suit up; he was certainly better than his son, recently retired NBA center Danny Schayes
- Bill Walton, the outspoken giant who acted in a vaguely menacing way toward Al Gore in Iowa at the Jefferson Jackson dinner; he was one of the best college players of all time, under UCLA's legendary coach John Wooden, and delivered the single best NCAA performance ever, going 21-for-22 in a championship game.
- Rebecca Lobo, the New York Liberty superstar who's been on the disabled list since a June game against the Cleveland Rockers left her with a torn ligament in her knee.
- Ann Meyers-Drysdale, a four-time All-American, widow of Dodgers great Don Drysdale and ESPN women's basketball commentator.
- John McEnroe, the Long Island-born tennis brat.
And as if that line-up were not enough, also on hand were actors Ethan Hawke, Spike Lee and Harvey Keitel and singer Bruce Hornsby.
After the Bradley event, Madison Square Garden was cleared in
preparation for a game between the Knicks and the Miami Heat, in which
two other NBA vets showed the world what they were up to. Heat
coach Pat Riley, formerly of the Lakers, and assistant coach Bob
McAdoo, formerly of almost every NBA team known to man, led the Heat
to a 94-88 victory over the Knicks.
It's an instruction Bradley would do well to keep front and center in his mind: Nostalgia is nice, but it don't win games.