It was 1971, Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the Big “O”, Oscar Robertson, Bobby Dandridge, Greg “Captain Marvel” Smith, and Jon McGlocklin were the starters for the World Champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks finished off Wes Unseld and the Baltimore Bullets with a 4-0 sweep to claim their first, and to date, last NBA title.
Coached by Larry Costello, the vintage Bucks posted a 66-16 regular season record and went 12-2 in the playoffs, dispatching Golden State and the Lakers along the way. The rest of the roster included these gems; Lucius Allen, Bill Zopf, Marv Winkler, Jeff Webb, McCoy McLemore, Bob Greacen, Gary Freeman, Dick “The Cement Mixer” Cunningham, and the all-time classic, Bob Boozer. Play-by-play artist Eddie Doucette called the games with a machine gun delivery, dubbing the players with the nicknames listed here, and coining phrases like Kareem’s “Sky Hook”, Bobby D’s “Pancake Jumper”, Johnny Mac’s “Rainbow Jumper”, and the quintessential, “Bango!” every every time anyone drained a jumper.They played their games in the old Milwaukee (MECCA) arena, and it was, as Marquette’s Al MGuire would often say, “seashells and balloons” every night.
Fast forward to the year 2014. The old arena still hosts games, it sits across the street from the now aging Bradley Center, but that is where any similarities end, with the exception of the mascot still named “Bango”, but it sure doesn’t look like the original anymore either.
Here’s your current roster of the team that finished 15-67 last year: Jeff Adrien, Carlos Delfino, John Hensen, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Knight, OJ Mayo, Khris Middleton, Zaza Pachulia, Miroslav Raduljica, Larry Sanders, Ramon Sessions, Epke Udoh, Chris Wright and Giannis Antetokounmpos. The head coach, for now, is Larry Drew. The GM, for now, is John Hammond. The new owners are billionaire fund managers Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. Not exactly a “Who’s Who” of NBA notables, on or off the court. For the record, the play-by-play announcer is Ted Davis, but don’t look up his won and loss record in his career, it’s frightening. Every time the Bucks win, his tag line is, “This one is in the bank and earning interest”, he used that bad boy 15 times last year.
Thus, on the eve of the 2014 NBA draft, and ping pong balled into the 2nd pick despite having the worst record in the league, the Bucks are now discussing names like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Dante Exum, the former college and Australian stars that are projected to go to the first two teams selecting tonight. Unless they wheel and deal out the second spot, with say, the likes of Philly, most pundits have Milwaukee absorbing Parker onto their roster. The ex-Duke phenom, who flamed out miserably in the Blue Devils first round NCAA tournament loss to 14th seeded Mercer, is a proven scorer with an NBA ready frame, allegedly right now hovering at 255 pounds.
The real dilemma however, is not if the Bucks settle on Parker, or Wiggins, (if it falls that way), because neither player will bring them to the Promised Land in the near future. In fact, a 25 game win total for 2014-15 would be a monumental step in the right direction, but the real heart of the Bucks resurrection lies in the ability of the new owners to gain a commitment from the city of Milwaukee and other investors to build a new arena for the Bucks to play in, and stay in, for the years ahead. Sure, they must establish a marketable product on the court, but if the fans and players are denied the amenities of the other venues in the league, it won’t be long before Seattle and other major markets come calling again, and all the hoopla surrounding the 2014 draft pick will become another footnote in the demise of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise.
Promises are made to be broken. It appears to this writer that the Bucks stopped attracting fans a long time ago, circa 2003, and if they are intent on building another world champion, it will take a lot more than a number 2 draft pick to rebuild a once proud franchise. Anything less than a solid 5 year plan to turnaround this dilapidated organization will certainly result in the one and only very last stop for the Bucks in Milwaukee.
And For What