Skip to main content

For years, the Milwaukee Bucks heard about the “Philly Jinx.” The Philadelphia 76ers had knocked the Bucks from the playoffs four out of the last five years. They met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1986, and future Hall of Famer Sidney Moncrief refused to let it happen again.

Moncrief missed Games 5 and 6 with a heel injury. He gutted it out in Game 7 in front of a home sellout crowd of 11,052 and did his best to erase that Philly Jinx.

The Milwaukee Bucks needed to break that Philly Jinx

Head coach Don Nelson of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts to the play on the court against the Washington Bullets during an NBA basketball game circa 1985 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Nelson coached the Bucks from 1976-87. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

The Sixers always stood in Milwaukee’s way. Usually, Philadelphia came out on top.

In 1985, Philadelphia made quick work of the Bucks, sweeping them in four games. In 1983, the Sixers topped them in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the same story in ’82 and ’81. The Bucks always went home early courtesy of the Sixers.

Bucks forward Terry Cummings wanted no part of jinx talk during that Eastern Conference Semifinals series of 1986.

“A jinx has nothing to do with what’s going on on the court,’ said Cummings then, per United Press International. ‘It’s just 10 guys on the court who dictate what happens.”

The ’86 series between the teams came down to Game 7. Milwaukee needed to do whatever it could to shed that jinx talk. That’s when Moncrief, who hadn’t played since he scored 13 points in Game 4, suited up.

Sidney Moncrief gutted out Game 7 for the Milwaukee Bucks

Moncrief made his fifth straight NBA All-Star appearance during the 1956-86 season. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 21.7 points and 5.2 assists that season. He proved to be one of the league’s best two-way players, winning Defensive Player of the Year twice.

Moncrief missed the last two games with a nagging heel injury, although the Bucks pulled out a 113-108 Game 5 win without him. The Sixers, however, evened the series at three games apiece with a blowout victory in Game 6, winning 126-108. The Bucks needed their leader in Game 7, and he came through.

While dealing with continuous pain, Moncrief played 35 minutes, shooting 9-for-16 from the floor. He finished with 23 points in a thrilling 113-112 victory that propelled them into the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Boston Celtics.

“I didn’t want the players to feel that the game would depend on whether I played the game,’ he said postgame, per UPI. “I think it was sheer determination that won us this ballgame. We have been on the short end so many years (to Philadelphia), that it feels real good to win this one.”

His presence and performance did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“We were lucky to have Sidney Moncrief back today,” fellow guard Craig Hodges said. “He showed how much heart and character he had.”

The Bucks shed the Philly Jinx after a goaltending call on Charles Barkley

Hodges got credit for the winning basket after Philadelphia’s Charles Barkley was called for goaltending on his shot with 29 seconds left. While the Bucks earned a date with the Celtics to determine the East’s representative in the NBA Finals, much of the talk revolved around the Philly Jinx.

“I know we’re finally happy to beat them, jinx or no jinx,” Cummings said.

Nelson and Hodges were both asked about the jinx after the win.

“It wasn’t on my mind a lot, but I wanted another chance at them,” Nelson said. “At last, we beat the Sixers one time. That’s pretty nice.”

Hodges said now the jinx talk can finally go out the window.

“If it was,” he said of the jinx, “it isn’t anymore.”


Milwaukee Bucks Legend Sidney Moncrief Talks Stephen Curry, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Social Media