The Bucks Have Big Backers: Kareem and Oscar Robertson

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The Milwaukee Bucks’ only title came in 1971 when they swept the Baltimore Bullets.

It was the third year in the series, a potential sign of a new powerhouse to reckon with alongside the Boston Celtics, which had dominated the NBA for much of the previous decade.

Now, 50 years later, the Bucks are still seeking their second title. They are in the finals for the second time since then, losing two games to the Phoenix Suns. Game 3 is in Milwaukee on Sunday.

The 1971 Bucks were led by two players still considered among the greatest in league history: Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor. Changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar The day after Milwaukee won the championship.

The 24-year-old Abdul-Jabbar was in his second year in the league and was already one of the most dominant players. He averaged 31.7 points per game to lead the NBA on his way to the first of six Most Valuable Player Awards. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Robertson was at the back end of his career, moving into a more supporting role as he scored All-Star numbers. Robertson, who was MVP in 1964, has just recently Finished a 10-year run with the Cincinnati Royals and became the first player to average a triple-double in a single season.

Both had special abilities – Abdul-Jabbar with his sky hook, Robertson for his versatility. it 1970-71 Bucks teamCoached by Larry Costello, he won 20 games in a row during the regular season, and then had the longest streak.

In an email to The New York Times, Abdul-Jabbar said the championship gave him confidence that many more would come for Milwaukee.

Describing Robertson and Bob Dandridge as “great teammates,” Abdul-Jabbar said, “I thought we had a good shot, thanks to the core we put together.” Dandridge was the team’s third top scorer in his second year in the NBA. He will go on to form four All-Star teams and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame’s class of 2021 through a veterans committee.

Robertson said in a phone interview that he doesn’t think much about future championships because “people didn’t think about those things in those days.”

Robertson pointed to the roster confusion to explain why these Bucks failed to win again. First forward Greg Smith and backup center Dick Cunningham were traded soon after, leaving reserve forwards Bob Boozer and McCoy McLemore. (Cunningham returned a season later but played sparingly his last three seasons.) The Bucks couldn’t find enough quality supporting pieces to help Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson.

“He killed us!” said Robertson.

Fifty years later, Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson are backing the Bucks again. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo has another generation of players with some of the versatility of Robertson on passes and rebounds, and the unusual physical tools that helped him become the top scorer like Abdul-Jabbar. And like the two former Bucks, Antetokounmpo struggles to find help from his teammates.

Antetokounmpo put on a remarkable performance in Game 2 against Phoenix, the two-time MVP’s last strong end-of-season game – 42 points and 12 rebounds. But the Bucks’ supporting roster offered little support and the Suns withdrew in the second half.

“He is very unusual,” Abdul-Jabbar said of Antetokounmpo. “He can play all five positions. Seeing how he developed as a player made me think the game was over-coaching in high school and college. He went to court and worked it out on his own. Instead of being forced to specialize, he developed his versatility, not to mention the limitations.”

Robertson added: “I’ll tell you a story: One year, Wilt Chamberlain scored 50 points per game and they won nothing. I think Giannis needs some help.”

Abdul-Jabbar during the Bucks’ semifinal series against the Nets said on ESPN He said he didn’t think they could win a championship. But on Thursday, before Game 2 against the Suns, posted a video As he flips a coin on Twitter and confidently says, “Six dollars.” The coin flip was a reference to 1969, when the Suns and Bucks flipped a coin to see who would get the money. First pick in the NBA draft. The Bucks won and took Abdul-Jabbar; Phoenix ran the #2 pick on Neal Walk, who has had a forgettable career.

Abdul-Jabbar said his career would have been “much different” had Phoenix drafted him.

“Phoenix is ​​so close to where I went to college and where my wife is from that I may have stayed there and never moved to Los Angeles,” said Abdul-Jabbar, who goes to college at UCLA.

Instead, Abdul-Jabbar asked the Bucks For a trade in 1974wanting to be in a big city. Robertson retired after the Bucks lost seven games to the Celtics in the 1974 final, leaving behind an aging core. Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Lakers where he won five more championships.

“Phoenix has a tradition of playing really well but not winning championships. Maybe I would change that,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

Both Robertson and Abdul-Jabbar said they have good memories of being in Milwaukee.

“I thought we could have won even without Kareem,” Robertson said, adding, “I thought Kareem was great for us, there’s no doubt about it, but we’ve had our total contribution in the games we’ve won.”

Abdul-Jabbar said he never expected to spend his entire career with the Bucks.

“It wasn’t a reflection about the team or the city, I was more in my early 20s and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in my career or even after basketball,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I felt like I wanted to be in a place where I had more choice, both in my personal and professional life.”

Abdul-Jabbar said he remembers Milwaukee’s fans as “great, enthusiastic and loyal”, especially in his rookie year. After losing to the Knicks in the 1970 playoffs, the Bucks returned home to Milwaukee.

“We finally arrived at 1am and got off the plane to hundreds of fans shouting ‘Next year is ours’,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I was quite disappointed on the journey home. I am very impressed and grateful. I think that may have set a fire under us to win the championship next season.”

But Abdul-Jabbar also recalled a more painful event.

“I had an incident where I was denied service because I was black in a small restaurant in Milwaukee,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It’s only happened once in six years, so I didn’t blame Milwaukee, but it was a low moment.”

Robertson remained with the Bucks from 1970 to 1974 before retiring at age 35. His best year was the championship season, averaging 19.4 points, 8.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game.

But his biggest impact on basketball may have been his lawsuit against the NBA in 1970, when the league tried to merge with ABA Robertson. Fighting the NBA’s “option clause” which player has restricted his movement. Six years later, the lawsuit was settled, opening the door to freelance acting today.

Without Robertson, Antetokounmpo might not have had the option of a so-called supermax extension he agreed to in December. almost a quarter billion dollars.

“I’m happy about it because I think it’s going to create a situation where some people, both Black and white, will make enough money and have a situation for their families where they don’t have to worry about anything in the future,” Robertson said.



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