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5 Exciting Moments in Milwaukee Bucks History | Wisconsin Historical Society

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5 Exciting Moments in Milwaukee Bucks History

5 Exciting Moments in Milwaukee Bucks History | Wisconsin Historical Society
EnlargeGiannis Antetokounmpo

2021 NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Photo by Keith Allison, Creative Commons.

Fulfilling the prophecy of their season motto, “History in the Making,” the Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA title in 50 years on July 20, 2021, defeating the Phoenix Suns. After falling behind 2-0 in the series, Milwaukee showed why the entire NBA “Feared the Deer” in 2021, rallying to win four straight games (cue “Bucks in six” chants). It was also a history making performance by star player and Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo who became the first player in Finals history to average 30+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 5+ assists on at least 60% shooting. As we let this history-making moment sink in, check out these five exciting moments from Bucks history.


5. “The Bucks are Born” - Team founded in 1968

I mean, you kind of have to start at the beginning! The Bucks were born in 1968 when Milwaukee was awarded a franchise. The nickname “Bucks” was the result of a naming contest. The moniker was suggested by R.D. Trebilcox of Whitefish Bay who said deer possessed all the qualities of a good basketball player: spirited, good jumpers, fast, and agile. I guess they overlooked the lack of a grip provided by hooves! Still, it wouldn’t take the Bucks long to climb the NBA ranks … More on that later.


4. “End of an Era” – Bucks lose to Boston Celtics in 1974 NBA Finals

The early Golden Age of the Bucks was over almost as quickly as it began. Just three years after winning their first NBA title, Milwaukee exited the 1974 NBA Finals after a crushing game-seven loss to the Boston Celtics. At the time, no one would have predicted it would begin a 47 year NBA Finals drought. Oscar Robinson announced his retirement in September of 1974. Star player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar suffered a broken hand during the preseason and was sidelined for the first 16 games of his final season in Milwaukee.


3. “The Big Three” – Allen, Robinson, and Cassel reignite the fan base

Ok, so this one might be a bit controversial, because it bumps some very good 1980s Bucks teams off of the list. But hear us out! Before the era of the “super team,” the Bucks “Big Three” of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell came together under coach George Karl to bring the Bucks back from obscurity. Before the 1998-99 season, Milwaukee had missed the playoffs in seven consecutive years, the longest playoff gap in team history. In the 2000-2001 season the trio led Milwaukee back to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1984. While the 80s Bucks were more consistently successful, the late 90s and early 2000s teams kept the franchise afloat.


2. “Straight to the Top” – Bucks defeat Baltimore Bullets to win 1971 NBA Finals

The 1971 Bucks shocked the world, becoming the quickest expansion franchise to win an NBA title. In just its third season, Milwaukee set a league record in total wins, consecutive wins, field goal percentage, field goals made, and assists, en route to a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Bullets in the Finals. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the league’s MVP, leading the NBA in scoring with 31.7 points per game. The addition that boosted the Bucks to the top of the league was Oscar Robinson who recorded a team-record 668 assists and was named an All-Star for the 11th consecutive year. It seemed like a Deer Dynasty was on the horizon, but Milwaukee could never recapture the magic of the 1971 season


1. “History in the Making - Milwaukee defeats Phoenix Suns to win 2021 NBA Finals

Ok, so we’ll admit … this is probably a bit reactionary, but how can we NOT put this at #1?! Time will tell if this moment is the culmination, or just the beginning, of a successful era of Bucks basketball, but in this moment, it stands antlers above all the others. This year’s NBA title will live forever in Wisconsin sports history, but was built over many years. Giannis Antetokounmpo joined the Bucks as a rookie in 2013 when he was just 18-years-old, making him one of the youngest players in NBA history. His potential was obvious from the moment he stepped on the floor, but his development and the addition of other players like Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, and more helped Milwaukee finally raise another Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. Antetokounmpo’s 50 points to end the Bucks 50 year title gap was a perfectly poetic cherry on the top of a stellar season.


Source: Milwaukee Bucks History

This article was published on July 26, 2021, and last updated on July 26, 2021.