The NBA playoffs are heating up, and you know what that means…
Every on-base basketball court in the country now has some dude who: screams for the ball, dives at your knees, and calls a foul whenever anyone gets near him. He wears brand new Jordans, knee-high socks, and probably has some (also new) sweatbands on. He constantly wipes the bottom of his shoes with his hands. His only passes are conveniently missed shots. He calls you “chief.”
These dudes are not that guy.
They served their country—and they balled out at the highest level.
Mike Silliman was a beast for West Pointe. He took them to the NIT semifinals in 1954, 1955, and 1956. That was the equivalent of taking a team to the “Final Four” three consecutive times. He then won a gold medal with the USA Olympic basketball team in 1968. He also, perhaps, more importantly, became a captain while serving with the adjutant general corps in Korea.
The most intriguing player on our list, Bernard James, didn’t play professional OR collegiate basketball until after serving in the military. In fact, James didn’t even play high school ball.
James dropped out of high school, earned his GED, and then enlisted in the Air Force at 17. He served six years in the Air Force as a security forces specialist, and became a Staff Sergeant. He was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom to Iraq, Qatar, and Afghanistan.
It wasn’t until he played on his intramural Air Force team (and had a surprise 5-inch growth spurt—seriously) that he realized he had a knack on the hardwood. He then played in community college before transferring to FSU, where he was eventually drafted by the Dallas Mavericks where he would spend most of his 3 year NBA career.
Tim James is a Miami hero. He played at Northwestern High School in Miami, then “the U” (The University of Miami), and was later drafted by the Miami Heat in the first round of the 1999 NBA draft. He played for 3 years in the league, and then joined the military after 9/11.
After enlistment, he served in Iraq and, according to an article by Dan Le Batard, even decided not to tell any of his fellow soldiers about his time in the NBA. Like Shakespeare said, “discretion is the greater part of valor.”
To say Bill Bradley was a renaissance man is an understatement. Bill Bradley’s achievements included: attending Princeton, attending Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, winning an Olympic gold medal in basketball, playing for the New York Knicks, winning two NBA championships, serving in the United States Air Force Reserve, becoming an NBA Hall of Famer, becoming a senator, and running for president… I pray he doesn’t DM my girl.
Don’t let the milkman look fool you– George Yardley is an NBA Hall of Famer and two-time All-American. After being drafted (to the NBA, that is) in 1950, he served in the Korean War for two years. When he got back, he played for the Fort Wayne Pistons and became the first player to score 2,000 points in a season.
Rightfully credited as one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, Elgin Baylor turned around a struggling Minnesota Lakers franchise (and set the pace for what would become one of the winningest franchises in all of sports) by leading them to the NBA finals his rookie season. During his fourth year in the purple and gold, he served as a U.S. Army Reservist, living at Fort Lewis. His duties as an army reservist prevented him from practicing or participating in weekday games—and he still posted up 38 points per game.
David “The Admiral” Robinson never achieved the rank of Admiral—but he was a Lieutenant for the Navy. His time in the Navy almost never happened as he was almost not accepted on account of “being too tall” (the Navy limit at the time, 6’8″, was two inches shorter than Robinson). In spite of this, he was accepted and balled out at the Naval Academy where he won the coveted Naismith and Wooden awards. He was a 10 time all star, 2 time NBA champion, a member of the legendary 1992 Olympic gold medal “Dream Team,” and had perhaps the most defined shoulder muscles of the 1990’s.