Seven championships in 10 years. That’s Olimpia’s pace during the Cesare Rubini and Adolfo Bogoncelli’s era. But what was starting to miss was a great international titles, during the years where Inter and Milan were dominating the international soccer scene. In 1964, Olimpia made it to the Champions Cup semifinal, losing to the legendary Real Madrid team because of points differential (in Milano, Olimpia was able to win): that was the best result accomplished up to that point. In the 1965 summer, the American player was Skip Thoren, a center from Illinois who later was going to play in the ABA (in 1969 he made the All-Star team) in Minnesota and Miami. Still that year’s team will be forever remembered as Bill Brdaley’s one. He arrived in Milano under special circumstances. Player of the year in Princeton (he led the team to the NCAA final four), the Missouri-born, son of a Crystal City banker, Bradley considered basketball a pleasing early experience of a more interesting life. His big dream wasn’t to play in the NBA, but to beacome U.S. President (he stopped as a candidate for the Democratic Party in the primary, but Al Gore got the nomination). For 18 years he was New Jersey Senator. To get to that point, he had to study well and be prepared: after graduating from Princeton, he decided to study in England the next two years. In Olimpia had the marvelous idea to offer him the opportunity to play only in European compeitition for one season. Bradley lived in England, but then he hopped onto a plane to reach Milano and play in the Champions Cup.
In terms of talent and basketball IQ he was out of this World. Bradley, after leaving Milano and Europe, was going to become an Hall of Famer, winning two NBA championships in New York, where he spent his entire professional career. He also played in three NBA Finals. His number 24 jersey has been retired by the Knicks. The Italian season by Bradley, in spite of being limited to a few games, was memorable. Anecdotes are countless. Bradley could practice just a little and get away with it. They say he could walk down Corso Buenos Aires and practice his peripheral vision, reading all the price tags in the shops without turning his eyes.
In the preliminary group, Olimpia surpassed Giessen and Hapeol Tel-Aviv, then in the second round a terrific Belgian named Steveniers scored 44 points for Racing Malines, a powerhouse at that time, making Bradley look almost bad with his… 43. On the road, Olimpia lost also in Prague and Madrid, but it was able to correct the losses at home and advance. The team conquered the Final Four by beating Real Madrid 93-76 at Palalido: Nane Vianello scored 40 points, Bill Bradley added 27. The great Final Four experiment started in Palalido where Slavia Prague met AEK Athens while in Bologna Olimpia met the scary CSKA Moscow who won the trophy in 1961 and 1963. Milano won the game convincigly 68-57, Massimo Masini had 15 points and Bradley had 20. So on April fool’s day in Bologna, Olimpia met Slavia Prague, a team led by Jiri Zidek, whose son was going to win the NCAA title at UCLA and then played in the NBA and in Europe. Olimpia won 77-72 with a great team game: Vianello scored 21 points, Thoren also scored 21, Bradley added 14 and Riminucci 10. No Italian team had won the cup before.