Secretary of Defense: Dudley Bradley

Dudley Bradley played a brand of basketball that is seen far too rarely in today’s NBA. How many players truly hang their hats on the defensive end of the court? Not many. Bradley, nicknamed the Secretary of Defense, knew how to get it done. Bradley earned the nickname while he was playing at the University of North Carolina, by making a huge play in an epic ACC showdown against rival North Carolina State.

On January 17th, 1979, Bradley’s Tar Heels were facing a one point deficit with 10 seconds remaining. In a hostile environment against an in-state rival, Bradley seized the moment and defined the type of player he was. He swiped the ball from NC State guard Clyde Austin and dribbled in for an uncontested dunk as the buzzer sounded. North Carolina 70, NC State 69, and thus the Secretary of Defense was born.

Bradley cherished his career at UNC, saying “the best memory is playing with the guys I played with. Guys like Phil Ford, Mitch Kupchak, we all had one common goal, just to win.” Bradley is a true team first guy, and that attitude reflects his on court style. Bradley never averaged 20 points per game on the college or NBA level, but he knew there was more to the game than scoring.

Bradley preaches the importance of defense and being a complete player all the time. When asked what advice he would give young people trying to make a team, he says “Don’t be one dimensional. If you can do more than one thing well, it greatly enhances your chances of making the squad. Every team needs another defensive stopper.”

That advice can be taken to heart when coming from a guy like Dudley Bradley. Not only did he manage to play at the University of North Carolina, but he also was a first round NBA draft selection, going 13th overall. He went on to set a rookie season record with the Pacers for most steals per game. After brief stints with Indiana, Phoenix, and Chicago, Bradley found his stride as a professional when he came to Washington to join the Bullets.

Bradley describes his time with the Bullets as “the best in my career.” He singled out Gus Johnson and Rick Mahorn as two of his all time favorite teammates, and he still calls Washington home to this day. Bradley played in the NBA from 1979-1989, getting to go up against some of the greatest players in league history.

Bradley always prided himself on being the team’s defensive stopper. During his time in the league he guarded the likes of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and even a young Michael Jordan. But when you ask him who was the toughest to guard, his eyes light up. “Undoubtedly, George Gervin. The man was just sensational, a true gentleman. He could put the ball in the bucket so many ways. Instead of talking trash, Gervin would just kill you with kindness. He would be talking to you like you were buddies and the next thing you know he would have 30 points on you. He just had so many ways to put it in.”

Bradley loves versatility in a basketball player. It is what he preaches to young people. However, it is easier said than done. Bradley on playing defense, “It is not something you can just turn on and off, it is very tough to play defense. You need to do your homework. You cannot just show up and play hard and think you are a great defensive player. You need to know tendencies.”

When I asked Bradley to compare his game to someone currently in the league, he shrugged and said he could not think of any. “I don’t see too many guys that love playing defense anymore. But the game goes in waves, and defense will be back.” Bradley still lives in the area, most recently working as a police officer. He also still follows the Wizards, and is a very big fan.

“The Wizards are such a young team. To have a kid that only played 1 year of college basketball and bring him into run the program, that is really tough on anyone. Youth is not always a good thing in the NBA. The good thing is that they are a roster full of young talented players, and hopefully they grow together into a great team. I think if you could add a couple of veteran guys who were willing to work with them and help them, it would be a great thing.”