'Living my dream playing basketball and serving my country'
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE - "Ever since I was in diapers, I've always had a basketball in my hand, I always knew I wanted to play," Staff Sgt. Ollie Bradley said, looking out over the Coral Reef Fitness Center Gym one recent afternoon. "I never knew that I'd be living my dream playing basketball and serving my country, doing what I love at the same time."
On Nov. 13, Bradley, a unit training manager with the 36th Security Forces Squadron, traveled to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to try-out for the All Air Force basketball team. Out of the 35 members that tried out, only 12 made the team.
One of those was Bradley, but it always ends up that way, this would mark his sixth consecutive time in a row making the team.
Recently, after making the team, Bradley who plays small forward and shooting guard, attended a three week training camp held at Lackland AFB. During the training, the team played local and college teams in the area before the final championship game at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. During the championships, Bradley and his team played other branches of services, defeating them all and making it to the final championship game carrying on the tradition of bringing home the gold that they have won consecutively for the past 8 years.
Since his high school days, Bradley played on the varsity team all four years, earning Most Valuable Player in both his junior and senior year. When asked how he became such a great player he explains how he took the extra mile to stand out from his peers.
"In high school and college I always wanted to be the best player in the gym no matter who we were playing," he said. "I was always the first person in the gym and the last to leave to perfect my craft and I made sure I gave 110 percent in everything I did."
While many young aspiring athletes are inspired by professionals, Bradley says his family inspired him to become an athlete and supported him through high school and college before joining the Air Force in 2005.
"My family is full of athletes, when I was younger my parents gave me the opportunity to play all sports from soccer to baseball, by doing this I found my love for basketball, "he said. "If it weren't for them I probably wouldn't be playing basketball today, I'm truly thankful to my family for giving me that freedom."
Beginning in 2005, during his first assignment at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, Bradley has made it a tradition to try-out for the All Air Force basketball team, and each year he always made the cut. Aside from making the All Air Force Team, he also made the Armed Forces Team, which is comprised of the best players in all branches of service.
"I play to win, when I went to Lackland, I didn't go for the try-outs, I went to make the team, and that's exactly what I did," he said. "Making the All Armed Forces Team is just another blessing, I'm thankful to play alongside the best."
Being a college basketball-star, Bradley had opportunities to play professional basketball, but he had bigger plans, he decided to take his family and basketball career and join the Air Force.
"I get asked a lot why I didn't try for the NBA, but with a few injuries throughout the years and having my family, I decided the Air Force was what was best for me. Knowing what I know now, I am so glad I made that decision, the military has awarded me so many opportunities that I couldn't have gotten in the civilian world. Now I am serving my country, supporting my family and doing what I love: playing basketball."
Not only did Bradley make the All Air Force Basketball team, he was also selected to play in the Conseil International du Sport Militaire basketball championship next October in Korea. He is one of five Air Force players selected to represent Team USA as the team challenges the best of the best military basketball teams in the world.
"Playing on the CISM team is such a good opportunity for me, I get to travel with other players around the world," he said. "There is no greater feeling."
When it comes to sports, support from others plays a big part in the success of the player.
"My family is my biggest support system, my wife and my 3 kids are what drives me to play my hardest," he said. "Also, my squadron supports me, I'm thankful to them for being there whether I'm on or off the court.
Bradley says that playing basketball in the Air Force has had a positive effect on his life. From building relationships with members of different branches of service and ranks, he explains how he has been able to build his communication skills.
"Being able to be around different individuals from around the world is an amazing experience," he said. "I could be playing with a chief or an airman basic and I would never know because we create a bond that is formed through playing sports. The relationships I build with my team members will last a lifetime; we are all each others mentors."
When it comes to the local community, Bradley stays active with the youth. From coaching kids basketball training camps to being a referee in the local leagues, Bradley has made a name for himself among the locals.
"I enjoy coaching the kids, I like to push them to their fullest potential like my parents pushed me," he said. "I want children to know that as long as they try their hardest, they will always win the game."
Bradley loves spreading the word about sports and opportunities in the Air Force. He wants all Airmen to know that there are programs out there for everyone.
"If you have the skills and the ability to excel in a certain sport, then go for it. The opportunity is there for you, it's up to you to try your hardest at whatever you want to do and go for it."