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Memphis basketball legend James ‘Spook’ Bradley dead at 67

James “Spook” Bradley, who played basketball for the then-Memphis State University Tigers from 1976-79, died on April 12. He was 67

Bradley played for Connors State Community College (1975-76) before transferring to Memphis State, now the University of Memphis. He was an honorable mention All-American for the NJCAA for 1976.

A star at Melrose High School, Bradley played on the team that went 35-0 and won the Tennessee State High School Championship. It was the first team to accomplish that feat.

Bradley played with Alvin Wright, the former Memphis Tiger and the uncle of the Memphis Grizzlies stalwart and former Tigers’ star Lorenzen Wright. He averaged 16.5 points per game and 9.2 rebounds during his career at Memphis.

Verties Sails Jr., a family friend, is the legendary head coach of the Melrose Golden Wildcats that went undefeated.

“His reputation was not good, but people know how good of a person he was,” said Sails. “He was the type of guy that looked mean, but if you got to know him, he had a great heart.”

Sails continued: “As an athlete, there have been many great ones to come through Memphis.  Talent-wise, Bradley was just as good as any of them. Big, strong and he could shoot the long ball. He could even play on the inside. On that team, we had some super players. We had some great players, John Gunn and Alvin Wright.”

Sails was instrumental in getting Bradley to attend Memphis. He knew the coach that Bradley played for in junior college.  After the first year, Bradley got his grades up and Sails went to get him.

Sails left after Bradley’s junior year at Melrose. Bradley then fell under the tutelage of Dorsey Sims Jr. Both Sims and Sails are in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Bradley played one year for the Pallaganestro Trieste, an Italian professional team. A leg injury ended his professional career. After basketball, Bradley became an interstate truck driver.

Drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1979, Bradley never played in the NBA.

He was a two-time, first-team All-Metro Conference selection and led the Tigers in rebounding during his final two seasons.

The number James “Spook” Bradley wore while playing for Melrose High School was retired during a ceremony on Feb. 13, 2023. (Facebook)

Bradley’s jersey was retired by Melrose on Feb. 13, 2023 during a game against Ridgeway High School.

Services were held last Saturday (April 29).


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