The Milwaukee Bucks Should’ve Been Named the Milwaukee Robins, According to Wisconsin’s NBA Fans

With reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the top NBA teams in recent years. Currently embattled in their first NBA Finals since 1974, the franchise got its name the way many sports teams do — through a contest. But “Bucks” nearly wasn’t the moniker the team received when it was founded in 1968. Rather than being named after a deer, the team was almost inspired by a bird native to Wisconsin. Here’s how the Milwaukee Bucks for their name.

Naming Milwaukee’s NBA franchise

Oscar Robertson of the Milwaukee Bucks sits on the bench in 1971
The Bucks’ Oscar Robertson (L) in 1971 | Focus On Sports via Getty Images

Sports Team History provides some background into how the franchise got its name. The team received more than 14,000 entries in a contest to name the squad after advertising a new car for the winner. Robins was the most popular entry. So why isn’t the team known as the Milwaukee Robins? The judges overruled the public’s choice and chose to go with a more indigenous name that sounded stronger. Among other mascots that weren’t picked: the Skunks.

The judging panel ultimately chose the name Bucks as a nod to the state’s hunting tradition. The judges felt bucks were “spirited, good jumpers, fast and agile,” all good traits for basketball players. R.D. Treblicox, of Whitefish Bay, Wis., was one of the entrants who submitted the Bucks name. He was declared the winner of the contest and earned a new vehicle.

The history of the Milwaukee Bucks

NBA.com details the history of the Bucks. The franchise was awarded to Milwaukee Professional Sports and Services, Inc., a group of investors led by Wesley D. Pavalon and Marvin L. Fishman, on Jan. 22, 1968, and the franchise was incorporated the following month. Larry Costello became the team’s first head coach, the first time he held the position in the league. Costello led the Bucks through the college and expansion drafts that year. 

The initial ownership group kept control of the franchise until the mid-’70s when they sold the team to minority owner Jim Fitzgerald and several partners in 1976. Less than a decade later, Fitzgerald sold the team to businessman Herb Kohl, a Milwaukee native who later represented Wisconsin as a U.S. Senator. He took over ownership of the franchise in 1985, ensuring that the Bucks would stay in the city he called home. Kohl remained the team’s president for 29 seasons. Then he transferred ownership to a group led by Marc Lasry and Wes Edens in 2014. Jamie Dinan and Mike Fascitelli soon joined the group as majority owners.

The Bucks find early success

Costello coached the Bucks for nine seasons, through the 1976-77 season. According to Basketball-Reference, he led them to a 410-264 record in the regular season and a 37-23 mark in the postseason. Costello’s time with the Bucks included winning an NBA title in 1970-71, the team’s third season in the league. No expansion team in U.S. pro sports history has earned a championship quicker than the Bucks. And it’s the team’s only title to date.

The 1970-71 season was an impressive one for the team. The Bucks went 66-16, a virtually unheard of .805 winning percentage, then lost just two of the 14 games they played in the postseason. The Bucks went 4-1 in beating the San Francisco Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. They had that same record in the Western Conference Finals, when they beat the Los Angeles Lakers.

Milwaukee did even better in the NBA Finals, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in four straight to take home the title. The Bucks scored more than 100 points in three of the four games in the championship series and in 12 of 14 postseason games that season. While Costello didn’t lead the Bucks to another championship, he led them to the NBA Finals again three seasons later.

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