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I

 

INTRODUCTION

Milwaukee Bucks, professional basketball team and one of eight teams in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Bucks play in the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and wear jerseys of green and purple.

II

 

NOTABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS

In 1971, led by guard Oscar Robertson and center Lew Alcindor (who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the Bucks captured the NBA championship. It was the franchise’s third season, and it was the fastest an expansion team had ever won a championship in a major professional sport. The Bucks reached the NBA Finals again in 1974, but they lost. In the 1980s the team was led by such players as Marques Johnson, Bob Lanier, Sidney Moncrief, and Terry Cummings. The Bucks won 50 or more games and the division title for seven consecutive seasons during that decade.

III

 

FRANCHISE HISTORY

The Bucks began NBA play in the 1968-69 season, joining the league with the Phoenix Suns. At the end of their first season, the two teams flipped a coin to determine which team would have the number-one pick in the 1969 NBA draft. The Bucks won and chose Lew Alcindor, who had paced the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) to three straight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships.

In Alcindor’s rookie year of 1969-70, the Bucks won 56 games and advanced to the Eastern Division Finals before falling to the New York Knicks. In the off-season the Bucks acquired Oscar Robertson, an 11-year veteran and future Hall of Fame member. In 1970-71 the team, which also included forward Bob Dandridge, registered a 66-16 win-loss record. The team marched through the playoffs and swept the Baltimore Bullets (now Washington Wizards) in the NBA Finals. For the season, Alcindor led the league in scoring with an average of 31.7 points per game and won the NBA’s most valuable player (MVP) award.

During three consecutive seasons, from 1971-72 through 1973-74, the Bucks reached the NBA playoffs. Although Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (as Alcindor was now known) won his second straight scoring title and MVP award during the 1971-72 season, the Bucks lost in the conference finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. A season later the Bucks again were ousted from the playoffs, this time in the conference semifinals by the Golden State Warriors. In 1973-74 Abdul-Jabbar earned his third MVP award, leading the Bucks to the 1974 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. The Celtics won in seven games, and the series, which featured two overtime games, is considered one of the most memorable in professional basketball.

Abdul-Jabbar missed much of the following season because of injuries, and in 1975 the club traded him to the Lakers. Without Abdul-Jabbar the Bucks remained competitive. Under head coach and former Celtics star Don Nelson, Milwaukee advanced to the 1978 conference semifinals before losing to the Denver Nuggets, four games to three.

Beginning with the 1979-80 season, the Bucks won their division for seven consecutive seasons, but each year the team lost to the powerful Philadelphia 76ers or the Celtics in the playoffs. The 1980-81 team, which included center Bob Lanier, forward Marques Johnson, and guards Sidney Moncrief, Quinn Buckner, and Brian Winters, was especially strong. It compiled 60 victories to win the Central Division, but it lost a seven-game series to the 76ers in the conference semifinals. The results in the next two seasons were similar: the best record in the Central Division and a loss to the 76ers in the conference semifinals.

In 1984 the Bucks finally defeated the 76ers in the semifinals, but they lost to the Celtics in the conference finals. Forward Terry Cummings arrived before the 1984-85 season and helped Milwaukee lead the league in defense, but the team lost in the playoffs to the 76ers in 1985 and to the Celtics in 1986.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s the Bucks compiled four consecutive winning seasons, but the club only once advanced past the first round in the playoffs. Although young, talented players such as Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson joined the team in the 1990s, the Bucks registered losing seasons from 1991-92 through 1997-98. After the lockout-shortened 1999 season, the Bucks returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1991.