The `biggest political fund-raiser in history' lifts Bradley

LUMINARIES FROM the world of professional basketball converged on New York's Madison Square Garden yesterday to support one of their own and wallow in purposeful nostalgia for a bygone age in the hope of making a mark on America's future. The event, "Back to the Garden" was a rally and celebration for Bill Bradley, the Democratic presidential contender and former basketball star whose strong showing in early campaigning has given Vice-President Al Gore the scare of his career.

One of the biggest - perhaps the biggest - political fund-raisers ever held, raising $1m-$2m (pounds 600,000-pounds 1.2m) for Mr Bradley's election war chest, it was also a far cry from the black-tie dinners where politicians commonly raise money. Dress informally and wear trainers were the instructions to Bradley backers, who had paid up to $1,000 apiece to stand on the court where Bill Bradley once played and where his number, 24, still hangs. The biggest contributors were invited to "shoot hoops" with the stars - present and past. So were selected local schoolchildren, who had entered a campaign-sponsored competition to say what they would do if they ever became president.

Many of Mr Bradley's former teammates in the Knicks, the New York team he played for from 1967 to 1977, returned to the Garden to support "Dollar Bill", as he was then called because of his legendary earnings. But they were also joined by many former opponents, including arch-rivals from the Boston Celtics, Bill Russell and John Havlicek. "Remember," said Mr Bradley's spokesman, Eric Hauser, "that a lot of these guys actually played against him." The new face of the sport was also represented with the presence of several leading female players.

In the Bradley campaign, the event was seen as crucial test to gauge whether their candidate could break out beyond his natural constituency - white men of a certain age, sports fans, and north-eastern liberals. "We're hoping for a little boost of energy," said Mr Hauser with feigned modesty.

The decision to trade on his basketball stardom also marked a departure for Mr Bradley, who consigned his sports career quite deliberately to the past when he entered the Senate in 1978. "I didn't talk about basketball because I wanted to make it on Senate terms," he says of those days. Now, basketball is one of the aspects of an illustrious career that, he says, gives him an edge on Mr Gore in terms of life experience.

Yesterday morning, in something of a coup for the Bradley campaign, the sports stars blitzed the Sunday television talk shows to explain why they supported the former basketball hero. Willis Reed told ABC that Mr Bradley had been "the biggest example of racial togetherness" during the Sixties when the civil rights movement was at its zenith and race riots scarred America's cities.

Phil Jackson, another former team mate who is now manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, said that how professional sportsmen behaved under pressure was a good indicator of how they would handle crises in later life. Bill Russell said: "He's bright, intelligent, a very strong person. He's a fierce competitor, in a very quiet way."

Yesterday's rally is followed this week by the release of the Bradley campaign's first television advertisements, commissioned - to the surprise of many in the political world - from a commercial agency with a reputation for an off-beat style rather than from a company that specialises in political campaigns. The pay-off line, reflecting Mr Bradley's outsider status, is: "It can happen."

While losing his marginal lead over Mr Gore in the key primary state of New Hampshire, according to a poll last week, Mr Bradley has more than halved the Vice-President's lead nationwide in the past two months, reducing it from 38 to 17 points.

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine