Oftentimes, professional basketball can seem like a game of chance, as there’s simply no way to predict how the ball will bounce or which shots will fall. It can be so random and unpredictable that it can start to feel like fate is dictated by the flip of a coin. When it comes to the Milwaukee Bucks, that sentiment couldn’t ring truer.
After finishing their debut season in last place in the Eastern Division, the Bucks headed into the 1969 NBA Draft with a 50-50 shot of drawing the first overall pick. In order to break the tie for the top selection, NBA Commissioner Walter Kennedy tossed a coin in the air. The Phoenix Suns called heads, the marker landed tails, and the Bucks walked away with two-time NCAA Player of the Year Lew Alcindor on their team. After qualifying for the playoffs in Year Two, the club acquired All-Star guard Oscar Robertson, and the foundation for success was set. In ‘70-71, the franchise won 66 games in the regular season, including 20 straight at one point, and then proceeded to capture the world championship. Alcindor won his first MVP and returned the following year as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The name on his jersey may have been different, but the dominant player still remained. By the end of his fourth season, Abdul-Jabbar had already accumulated 10,000 career points, and Milwaukee was in the league record books as the first team ever to notch 60 or more wins in three straight campaigns.
Abdul-Jabbar would grab a third MVP in ‘73-74 while leading the Bucks to the NBA Finals, but the following season would end up being his last in Milwaukee. All-Star Bob Dandridge assumed the scoring burden, and the franchise remained competitive. Future Hall of Famer Bob Lanier and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Sidney Moncrief soon took over and laid the groundwork for what would turn into a 12-year run of consecutive winning seasons and playoff appearances. However, after failing to qualify in ‘91-92, the Bucks and their fans would have to wait several years before returning to postseason action.
Head coach George Karl arrived in time for the ‘98-99 season and promptly put the club back on the winning track. Over the course of the next five seasons, the Bucks made the playoffs four times, and in ‘01, they snared their first divisional title since ‘86. During the ‘02-03 crusade, fans got hit with a double-whammy when Karl departed for Denver and perennial All-Star Ray Allen was traded to Seattle. Milwaukee would book postseason appearances in both ‘03-04 and ‘05-06, but they failed to generate much traction either time.
For all the comings and goings associated with the franchise, there’s always been one constant for fans: Bango has proudly served as team mascot since 1977. In recent years, he’s been joined by the Bucks Beats Drumline, the Rim Rockers, and the Grand Dancers (a boogie-riffic assembly of diehards aged 55 and older.) Together, they ensure that the home crowd is always fired up and ready to cheer the Bucks on to the next victory.