Bucks Lead

Young Bucks Play Old School Ball

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I remember it like it was yesterday. The Bucks made it into the playoffs during their first season under Coach Kidd, and they were fighting to stay alive after losing the first three games to the Bulls.

I was kicking myself for not buying playoff tickets, and then it happened. The Bucks won game five in Chicago to stay alive! They were coming home for Game Six! There was no way I was going to miss it, so I bought four tickets to take my family. My two teenage sons had never experienced the thrill of an NBA playoff game, so this was going to be great. I live an hour north of Milwaukee, and I took the afternoon off so we could drive down as a family.

Since none of us had any Bucks apparel to wear to the game, I decided to go shopping for shirts. Ever the bargain hunter, I first went to Dunham’s. The clerk said that they had a few shirts earlier, but they had sold them all. Kohl’s was close by, so I went there next. I walked into a sea of Packers, Brewers, and Badgers shirts, but not a single Bucks shirt, jersey, or hat was to be found. I asked a clerk if they had sold out, and she said they don’t carry Bucks stuff. What? I found this particularly shocking since Herb Kohl was the former team owner. Undaunted, I went to Shopko, and after that, Target. I was completely flabbergasted that not a single retailer in Sheboygan carried any Bucks attire. You would never know that Wisconsin had an NBA team. Fortunately we were able to score some free shirts in the Bradley Center lobby right before the game.

When I told this story to my friends they weren’t at all shocked. They said nobody cares about the Bucks, or the NBA in general. I found this answer completely unacceptable, so I pressed for more information. I know they love Wisconsin Badgers basketball, and March Madness, so it’s not for lack of interest in the sport. The consistent theme was that the NBA is full of overpaid thugs that play selfish basketball, only caring about their individual statistics.  And they don’t play with heart like players do in college ball. They said the NBA “used to be good”, but don’t like the new style of play that focuses on high scoring and no defense

It’s obvious they haven’t watched the Milwaukee Bucks in a while because our young Bucks are all heart. Watch the team’s reaction to this Khris Middleton three point buzzer beater against the Miami Heat two years ago, and tell me they’re only doing it for the paycheck.  You would have thought they had just won the NBA championship by their reaction. I watched that game on television at home with my two sons, and our house erupted when Middleton nailed that shot. Nothing exciting about NBA basketball? Come on! This is a team for basketball fans to feel good about. A friend summed it up nicely when he said, “I really love this team the way I loved basketball when I was kid. It’s basketball for people that got sick of (NBA) basketball.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Bucks current roster is a mix of young, raw talented players led by Giannis Antetekounmpo, aka “The Greek Freak”, a humble 22 year old youngster that blows up all the negative stereotypes. You would never know by the way he acts that he earned a starting spot on the Eastern Conference’s 2017 All-Star team roster (leading all scorers) and was also awarded the NBA’s 2017 Most Improved Player Award. Giannis is a player respected among his peers, and revered by fans. He is humble about his individual accomplishments, preferring to give credit to his teammates. He’s a role model that parents of young basketball fans can feel good about.

Another excellent role model is Bucks standout point guard Malcolm Brogdon. He came to the team as a second round draft pick last year from the University of Virginia. While in college, Brogdon earned both the ACC Player of the Year Award, and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award. He brought that same work ethic with him to the NBA where he walked on to the court with confidence and poise rarely seen in rookies. He played much of his first season with the Bucks as the leader of the second unit off the bench, but would eventually earn his way into the starting rotation. It came as no surprise to Bucks fans that Brogdon won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award. His superb gameplay late in the fourth quarter against the Celtics on March 28th pretty much sealed the deal in his bid for this prestigious award . Brogdon’s acceptance speech at the NBA Awards Night showed the same poise as his play on the court, thanking his mom, God, and the Bucks organization. He also seized the opportunity to inspire players that come into the league as second round draft picks or get passed over altogether. He spoke of sacrifice in pursuit of your goals. These are great messages about determination and hard work that are important for everyone to hear. As a father of two teenage sons myself, role models like Antetekounmpo and Brogdon are the type of men of character I want my kids to emulate. Hard workers with a team focus.

The Bucks are the team for fans that enjoy tough, grind it out, defensive battles. During Game Six of the playoffs against the Raptors last season, the Bucks were down by 25 points in the third quarter, but fought back to tie it up, and even take the lead a couple more times in the fourth quarter. While the Raptors ultimately fought back to win 92-89, the Bucks gave an effort to feel proud about. Their backs were against the wall, and they responded with an all-out effort led by impressive defense. Raptors coach Dwayne Casey had this to say about the Bucks following that game, “My hat is off to Milwaukee, because their defensive toughness is going to be a thing to deal with in the future”. There were many lessons learned in that game, including the importance of making free throws. The Bucks lost that game at the free throw line, missing nine of 18 shots in the fourth quarter alone. But the greatest learning was the realization that Coach Kidd’s admonition of “It’s going to hurt if you want to win” was absolutely correct. Giannis played all but 81 seconds of that game, playing through exhaustion. Khris Middleton had been ill that week, but he had to play anyway. The Bucks may have lost that series, but they learned what it’s going to take to win at the highest level.

So for all the middle aged guys out there that have given up watching NBA basketball, you should check out the new Milwaukee Bucks. This is a high spirited, disciplined group of guys that play team basketball with heart and grit, the way teams did back in the day. We have superstar talent minus the selfish showboating.

The Bucks open the 2017-18 season on October 18th against the Boston Celtics.

 

About Bob Holland

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