With three young daughters, two of whom are still in diapers, Michael Bradley chose not to play another season in Europe.
So the former Kentucky player and his wife, Ellen, settled down in northern Kentucky to be close to her family. Now, Bradley, who turns 30 this spring, is weighing his second-career options as a new year begins.
"I'm kind of brain-storming," he said in a telephone conversation last week. "I've come up with a couple avenues I'd like to pursue."
One is broadcasting. He's verbal. And with a career that includes the NBA and two seasons in Europe, he knows basketball.
Bradley sought advice from Eric Montross, a former Toronto Raptors teammate who now works on the radio broadcast for his alma mater, North Carolina. Montross helped him connect with ESPN.
"They're interested because they say I'm in a good geographic location," Bradley said.
With ESPN gaining the rights to Southeastern Conference games beginning next season, the network will need broadcast teams. By living in northern Kentucky, Bradley can easily get to UK, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and other league schools, while also being within driving distance of Xavier, Cincinnati, Indiana and Louisville.
One hitch: Bradley doesn't have any television experience. So he's looking for TV opportunities to have tapes to send to ESPN or anyone else interested in his services.
"They want to make sure you can speak," he said, "and do it during a live game."
Bradley has worked radio broadcasts. He filled in for a few games while recovering from injuries with the Raptors and then with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Bradley is also considering establishing an agency to help American players play for European teams. After noting how he ran across such former UK players as Tony Delk, Erik Daniels and Antwain Barbour in Europe, Bradley said, "Those kind of guys can make a 10-year career over there. And I think a lot of guys don't know it."
Salaries can start at $50,000 a year. A player with UK on his resume can start at $100,000 a season. The pay can rise to $600,000 to $700,000.
"Tax free," Bradley said. "That's rare. But if you play well, they'll pay you over there."
Bradley enjoyed his time playing in Spain, Germany and Lithuania.
"I found the quicker you adjust and didn't put up barriers, you enjoy it more," he said. "If you just try to stay in your apartment and watch American DVDs, you go crazy."
Bradley also embraced Europe's more casual lifestyle.
"People over there always told me, 'You guys live to work; we work to live,'" Bradley said. " ... Where we're so used to getting something on the run and going, there's no coffee shops you can get a to-go cup. You have to sit down, have a smoke, talk for two hours."
Bradley and Ellen have become more European. Lunch is the big meal of the day. Dinner comes later in the evening.
The Bradleys' three daughters are Taylor, 3, Kya, 16 months, and Shae, almost five months. They adopted Kya, who was born in Ethiopia, in part, because Bradley's father, David, was adopted.
"It was something always in the back of my mind," Bradley said. "To see how blessed I've been and how my life turned out all because somebody gave him a shot."
Bradley counts his two seasons for Kentucky as a blessing. If there's any fan resentment over his transfer to Villanova (where he averaged 20.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in one season before turning pro), he doesn't feel it.
"I hated to leave," Bradley said. "We just had a few differences with what I thought I could do and what Tubby (Smith, then UK coach) thought I could do.
"I think Tubby's a good guy. It was nothing personal. It was just when you become a junior in college and one of your goals is to become a pro athlete and you're not playing a ton of minutes, the best thing for me to do is to go someplace where I could showcase and play more minutes."
Bradley was a face-the-basket big man who could shoot jumpers and pass. "A point-center," as then Temple coach John Chaney called him.
Rick Pitino recruited him to play that way at Kentucky. Then when he got to UK, Smith became coach and wanted him to be a more traditional low-post big man.
"Five feet and in and screening and rebounding, which is fine," Bradley said. "I understand the game well enough to know you need those guys. It just seemed like I was recruited to one system and didn't fit in the other.
"I had to make a decision for myself and it worked out. But I always tell people I wish I could have played those minutes (at UK) and made it to the NBA (from UK) because I loved the school and I loved the teammates and the city."
Bradley gets asked which experience was better: Kentucky or Villanova.
"I didn't have as much fun at Villanova," he said.
Villanova was fine. But, Bradley said, "It's a step down from Kentucky. That's obvious."
One day last week, the Los Angeles Times conducted a poll in which it asked readers to choose "the most defining moment in sports history."
That sweeping category included a moment in UK basketball history. Even if the moment came in epic defeat, Kentucky should enjoy keeping this kind of company:
■ Colts beat Giants in first sudden-death NFL game in 1958
■ Bobby Thomson's homer gives Giants 1951 pennant over Dodgers
■ Texas beats Southern California in 2006 BCS title game
■ Duke beats Kentucky on last-second shot in 1992 NCAA basketball game
■ U.S. Olympic hockey team defeats Soviet Union in 1980
■ The 1984 Summer Olympics in L.A.
■ Boston wins 1969 NBA Finals Game 7 over Lakers
■ Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in 1936 Olympics
■ Arthur Ashe wins the 1968 U.S. Open over Tom Okker
■ USA captures the 1999 Women's World Cup in soccer
■ Secretariat wins Belmont Stakes to complete 1973 Triple Crown
■ Joe Louis defeats Max Schmeling in 1938 heavyweight bout
■ Arnold Palmer wins the 1960 U.S. Open with a final-round 65
And now for the results: Among the 4,116 responses, the so-called "Christian Laettner Game" received 1.3 percent of the vote.
The runaway winner and runner-up were the Miracle on Ice U.S. hockey team victory over the Soviets (39.3 percent) and Owens winning four gold medals (31.9 percent).
UK's third scorer
ESPN commentator Dick Vitale agreed with the premise for a story last week: UK, like all teams that aspire to greatness, needs at least three consistent scorers.
Most recently, Kentucky hit its stride last season when guards Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley joined Patrick Patterson in a three-pronged attack.
Jodie Meeks, whose 24.1-point scoring average puts him on pace for UK's highest since Dan Issel's senior season (33.9 ppg in 1969-70), and Patterson give the Cats two dependable scorers.
But no other UK player is averaging even eight points.
"Somebody has to step up, no question," Vitale said. "Who will be that guy?"
Then Vitale offered the most likely candidate.
"The kid I know is going to be better, I just know will get better and better is (DeAndre) Liggins," he said. "He's got ability, as a coach, you can't teach."
By that, Vitale meant Liggins, a freshman from Chicago, has unusual size at 6-6 for a primary ball-handler.
"And he's got swagger," Vitale said. "He's got a belief that he can be really good."
Liggins isn't there yet. Like all players, he can improve. Going into the Louisville game, he's got almost as many turnovers (48) as assists (53).
Liggins is no perimeter shooting threat (5-for-27 on three-point attempts), so far. He acknowledges that his shot selection needs sharpening.
"I think it all comes down to how good does he want to be," Vitale said. "Is he really willing to pay the price? A lot of kids don't go the extra step."
Vitale cited North Carolina All-American Tyler Hansbrough as an example for Liggins — and all players — to follow.
"You should see how a kid like Hansbrough works," Vitale said. "(Liggins) has to do it in practice every day."
Believe it or not
UK basketball will be mentioned in a Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoon on Feb. 4.
UK fan John Carpenter of Firebrick, Ky., can take the credit. He submitted the fact that UK won 129 consecutive home basketball games from Jan. 4, 1943 to Jan. 8, 1955.
Researcher Luke Stram said Ripley's publishes about 1,100 hard-to-believe facts each year. The best are easily understood and can be stated in a sentence.
Kentucky's home winning streak will appear in newspapers worldwide and on Ripley's Internet site.
Carpenter, 50, regularly submits facts to Ripley's. He'll receive a credit line on the winning streak.
But Carpenter was not looking for personal glory. Of the exposure to Ripley's audience around the world, Carpenter said, "Do you think this helps Kentucky basketball any?"
It can't hurt getting the word out around the world. There may be a power forward in New Delhi who's just waiting to hear about Kentucky basketball.
Ripley's appears in 200 papers worldwide in 30 countries, said Jeremy Dubert of United Media, which distributes the feature.
"Ripley's runs in papers on all six populated continents (not in Antarctica, of course)," Dubert wrote in an e-mail. "It is especially popular in India and in Mexico, where it runs in a great deal of papers."
Future Cats file
Tickets for the 2009 Derby Festival Basketball Classic will go on sale on Monday. The (37th annual) game will be played April 11 at Freedom Hall.
UK recruits Jon Hood of Madisonville and G.J. Vilarino of McKinney, Texas, have committed to play in the game, said Dan Owens, recruiting chair for the Classic.
Owens hopes that big man Daniel Orton, if healthy, will also play.
The Derby Festival game also includes prospects committed to Louisville and Indiana.
Tickets are $15 and $10 and will be available at all TicketMaster outlets (361-3100 or 800-487-1212) and the Freedom Hall box office (367-5001).
Tickets to the Classic game also include free admission to the Derby Festival Night of Future Stars, where players participate in two-on-two, three-point shooting and dunk contests. That will be held April 10 at Bellarmine University's Knights Hall.
Vitale jumps to NBA
Ebullient broadcaster Dick Vitale will be working an NBA game on Wednesday. It's part of an ESPN promotion in which its college and pro announcers trade places.
Vitale will work the Denver-Miami game that features stars Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets and Dwyane Wade of the Heat.
To Randolph Morris. The former UK big man turned 22 on Friday.
Morris is in the first season of a two-year deal with his hometown Atlanta Hawks.
The NBA's official Web site offered this analysis of Morris as a prospect for a fantasy league going into the 2008-09 season: "Morris has played the past two seasons with the Knicks, but he only appeared in 23 games. He will continue to ride the pine in Atlanta, but should see time as a backup for Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia. The potential departure of Josh Smith could also bump up Morris' value slightly."
Going into this weekend, Morris had played in seven of the Hawks' first 31 games. He was averaging 4.1 minutes and 1.1 points.
Jerry Tipton covers UK basketball for the Herald-Leader. This article contains his opinions and observations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.