Dunking over Earl Boykins? Not the same effect.

Speaking of effect, sports and romantic comedies alike are packaged as triumphs over insurmountable odds. This is balderdash: if the odds truly were insurmountable, both love and victory would be impossible. What we really want to see are odds just long enough to make things interesting. And what could be longer – yet ultimately less threatening – than Bradley, camped in front of the rim with his arms raised like goal posts?

Boy meets ball. Giant, Frankenstein-like complication arises. Boy and ball find rim and live happily ever after, pictured on 1,001 bedroom wall posters across the country.

As parents, we teach our children to give their best effort; as adults, we know all too well that effort alone means squat. In the game of life, someone with superior talent will still ram the ball down your craw. Throughout his 12-season career, Bradley took it in the grill more than once. Yet he never complained, never shirked from his dunk-target duty.

As a player and a role model, Bradley accepted his lot. Wiped the S-P-A-L-D-I-N-G from his forehead. Picked up his mouthpiece and went back to work. His stoic attitude was commendable. A career salary of more than $60 million probably helped. And considering his salary, Bradley was shamefully underutilized, averaging just 23.5 minutes per game.

Worse still, he was never employed as an All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest prop. Why, Vince Carter, why?

Things could have been different. Should have been different. Mark Davis, a 6-foot-7 journeyman, once grabbed Bradley by the legs and body-slammed him during a game. Six-foot-one guard Earl Watson (57 career blocks) stuffed Bradley from behind. On a layup. Give Bradley another year in the league, and an airborne LeBron James might hurdle the lanky center completely.

Shaq once said he could score 100 points in a game against Bradley. Of course, Shaq was kidding around; in a full 48 minutes, I believe that number would be closer to 120.

Sadly, we'll never know. Bradley is just about done, leaving a gawky, clodhopping hole in his wake. Who will seize the rim-rocked mantle? Rik Smits retired years ago. Yao Ming showed early promise, then decided to develop some actual game. Perhaps Andrew Bogut is up to the task. Maybe Frederic Weis will finally play for the Knicks.

Possibly, just possibly, there's a young, clumsy giant taking playground abuse right now, dreaming of the day when McGrady rides him like a mechanical bull.

In the meantime, Bradley deserves better – at least better than his autobiography selling for $0.33 at an online bookstore. Someone once said that every person of genius is considerably helped by being dead; Bradley's genius was simply appearing that way after giving up a ferocious flush. When the 7-foot-6 bull's-eye makes his retirement official, pay your respects. We may never see his likes on a poster again.

Patrick Hruby helped design the ultimate basketball sneaker for Page 2.


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