NIU Athletics has unveiled a multi-layered display at the Convocation Center to permanently commemorate an iconic moment in its history – the October 1971 Sports Illustrated photo shoot of the Huskies’ basketball “Player of the Century” Jim Bradley, by world-renowned sports photographer Heinz Kluetmeier.
Bradley, NIU’s sophomore phenom, was photographed by Kluetmeier for Sports Illustrated’s prestigious “1971-72 College Basketball” issue in a cornfield west of campus.
One of the images captured that day was featured as a full-page photo on page 73 in the publication’s Nov. 29, 1971 issue, thrusting NIU’s basketball program – entering only its fifth season at the University Division level – into the national spotlight. But Kluetmeier also captured numerous other images of Bradley that day which were never published and have been stored in the archives of Sports Illustrated – unseen by the public – for nearly 45 years.
Through the generosity of Mr. Kluetmeier, who has more than 125 Sports Illustrated covers to his credit, the images have been made available to NIU Athletics for the display as well as for its photo archives.
Recalled Mr. Kluetmeier of the Oct. 14, 1971 photo shoot, his only visit to the NIU campus:
“It was a perfect day. As soon as I met Jim and NIU’s basketball support team (head coach Tom Jorgensen, assistant coach Emory Luck and sports information director Bud Nangle), I knew it would be a terrific shoot as the photos attest. Photographers often are only as good as their subjects allow them to be and that day allowed me to be very good, thanks to Jim. He was fun, engaged and unassuming. He soared above the nearby cornfields unfettered by gravity and flashing that great smile. He reminds me to this day of Magic Johnson whom I photographed at the same age and more recently of Kris Dunn (Providence College) who I just photographed. I wish all my assignments were as wonderful as that great day with Jim, a perfect day on NIU’s campus. It is not often enough said, but I will say again as I did then, ‘thank you Jim’ for being such a perfect subject and making my job the best in the world.”