The Milwaukee Bucks are marching towards an NBA Championship.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. have the entire city of Milwaukee thinking about a championship. The Bucks have the best record in the NBA and, barring a major meltdown, will have home-court advantage throughout the 2020 NBA postseason.
With just two major professional sports franchises in the city, it’s hard to bring many championships to Milwaukee. The Brewers have never won a World Series and the only trophies to come in lately have come from a minor-league hockey team and an indoor soccer team. So when exactly was the last time the Milwaukee Bucks won an NBA title?
A brief history of the Milwaukee Bucks
What some might not know is that the Bucks were not the first NBA team in Milwaukee. First known as the Buffalo Bisons, and then 38 days later, the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (based in Moline, Illinois), the team now known as the Atlanta Hawks played in Milwaukee from 1951 to 1955 before moving to St. Louis.
In January 1968, Milwaukee was awarded a new NBA franchise. Thousands of fans participated in a contest to name the team and the winner actually wasn’t the Bucks. The fans first voted to name the team the Robins, the state bird of Wisconsin. However, that didn’t sit well with the judges, who ended up going with the second-place Bucks, the state’s official wild animal.
The Bucks played their first game in the fall of 1968, a loss to the Chicago Bulls, and they finished their first season with a 26-56 record. However, fortunes would change quickly when Milwaukee drafted Lew Alcindor with the first pick of the 1969 NBA Draft.
The Milwaukee Bucks win the NBA title in 1971
In just their third year of existence, the 1970-1971 season, the Milwaukee Bucks took their first trip to the NBA Finals and subsequently won their first and only NBA title.
Lew Alcindor, who would a few years later become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was an immediate force in the NBA. He was the runaway Rookie of the Year in 1970, averaging 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds. He was even better in his second year. The former UCLA standout, who had won three straight NCAA titles and three straight Most Outstanding Player trophies, led the NBA in scoring in his sophomore season with 31.7 points per game, adding on 16 rebounds per night. Alcindor won the first of his six NBA MVP awards in 1971.
But it wasn’t just Alcindor that helped the Milwaukee Bucks to a 66-16 record in the 1970-1971 season. The team had also acquired All-Star Oscar Robertson from the Cincinnati Royals prior to the start of the season and the “Big O” was a solid number two with 19.4 points and 8.2 assists per night.
On the way to the postseason, the Bucks recorded a then-NBA-record 20-game winning streak. They were the clear favorites when the playoffs began and played that way. They beat the San Francisco Warriors four games to one in the Western Conference semis and then also won 4-1 in the West finals over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals to win their first NBA title. They became the fastest true expansion team in the history of North American sports to win a championship. They returned to the NBA Finals in 1974 but lost to the Boston Celtics. They haven’t been back since.
Will the Bucks win the NBA title in 2020?
Like they were in their last title run in 1971, the Milwaukee Bucks will likely be the favorites heading into the 2020 NBA postseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is having another MVP-caliber season and is the clear frontrunner to win the award again. With his win in 2019, Giannis was the only other Milwaukee Bucks player besides Kareem to win Most Valuable Player.
Along with Khris Middleton and a great supporting cast that includes Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, and Kyle Korver, the Bucks have a strong chance to eclipse the 66-16 mark set by the 1970-1971 team, which is still the best record in franchise history. It’s certainly going to be tough for any team to beat the Milwaukee Bucks four times in a series.