My Fave Five
Truman Reed Index presents Bucks playoff revue
by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com
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May 18, 2009
"The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!!! ... "
"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!!"
"Down goes Frazier!"
Ask a diehard sports fan for the most memorable sports call he has ever heard. If the reply is not one of those mentioned above, chances are that it will still come quickly.
And there's a good chance that the fan in question will remember exactly where he was and what he was doing when he heard it.
As the 2009 NBA Playoffs swing into the conference finals, the Truman Reed Index was given a mission to list its five favorite Bucks playoff games.
So here they are:
April 30, 1971
Game 4 of NBA Finals
Milwaukee Bucks 118, Baltimore Bullets 106
Eddie Doucette was on the call, and this was the fever pitch of his call: "The Bucks are the world champions!!!"
It was the night of April 30, 1971. My parents were out for the evening, and a neighbor (we'll call him Bob, because that was his name) was over at our house keeping me and my younger brother and sister company.
The Bucks were in Baltimore, Maryland, which used to have an NBA team called the Bullets. The Bullets later moved to Landover, Md., and changed their name to the Capital Bullets, then picked up and moved again to Washington, D.C., where they became the Washington Bullets. Some 22 years after that, "Bullets" became a politically incorrect nickname and the team became the Washington Wizards.
But back to the nitty gritty.
The Bucks, with their 118-106 victory that night, completed a 4-0 NBA Finals sweep of the Bullets to claim their first and only NBA championship. An NBA expansion team just three seasons earlier, they thus came further faster than any team in professional sports to that point in history.
Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson, acquired by the Bucks in an April 1970 trade, scored a game-high 30 points in the title-clinching victory, which completed one of the most dominant playoff runs (12-2) in NBA annals. They left the Bullets, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Francisco Warriors in their wake.
In spite of their remarkable success, the Bucks had not yet commanded the undivided attention of many hometown fans. I could attest to that.
As I listened to Doucette proclaim the Bucks world champions over the funky, red, basketball-shaped transistor radio that was glued to my right ear and let out a yell, I glanced to my left, where the aforementioned Bob was sitting at the opposite end of the couch.
Bob was reading a book. As he glanced back at me, this was exactly what he said: "Did you know that a condor has a 12-foot wingspan?"
I will never forget that. Shaking my head, I tuned back in to Eddie. I had seen a few championship celebrations on television, so I did what I figured was the most appropriate thing to do.
I popped open a bottle of Pepsi, put my thumb over the top, shook it up vigorously and sprayed its contents all over the ceiling of our family room. It was never quite the same.
May 10, 1974
Game 6 of NBA Finals
Milwaukee Bucks 102, Boston Celtics 101 (2 OTs)
Not long ago, I read a compendium of the greatest NBA playoff games ever, and this one made the list.
The Bucks, who had won an NBA-best 59 games during the regular season before taking four of five games from the Lakers and four straight from the Chicago Bulls in their first two playoff series, were on the hallowed parquet floor of the Boston Garden taking on the dreaded Celtics.
Boston, which had won 56 games to lead the East and made fast work of the Buffalo Braves and the New York Knicks in their earlier playoff rounds, sent this contest into overtime and then double-overtime on a pair of long jump shots by Hall-of-Famer John Havlicek.
Havlicek drained yet another clutch shot with 7 seconds to go in the second overtime to stake his team to a 101-100 lead, but the Bucks had the last word, and it was an emphatic one.
The Bucks called time out, and Coach Larry Costello diagrammed a play for sharpshooter Jon McGlocklin, who was to utilize a pick by league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
McGlocklin couldn't get free, though, and Abdul-Jabbar, with the ball, moved to the right side of the lane, dribbled to the baseline and launched one of his patented sky-hooks from 17 feet with 2 seconds to play.
The shot went in, capping a team-high 34-point effort by Abdul-Jabbar, who joined Robertson and Havlicek in playing every one of the game's 58 minutes.
The Bucks' 102-101 victory evened the series at three games apiece. The Celtics won it two days later with a 102-87 win in Milwaukee.
May 20, 2001
Game 7 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
Milwaukee Bucks 104, Charlotte Hornets 95
The buzz was back in Milwaukee, and not just because the Hornets were in town.
The Bucks were not only in the playoffs for just the second time since 1989, but they had advanced past the Orlando Magic and split three games with Charlotte in the conference semis.
I would witness this game from an entirely different perspective than I had seen the top two on this list. I was not only in the building, but I had a press pass.
Before the game, I remember overhearing several colleagues complaining about where their media seats were located in the Bradley Center. The Bucks, after all, had to make room for additional fan seating and accommodate the national media, as well.
I was assigned to a corner seat about 30 feet from the playing floor, alongside some of the aforementioned whiners who were accustomed to sitting at the scorer's table or along the baseline.
I wasn't about to squawk about my vantage point, though. Most of the Bucks games I witnessed during the 1970s and '80s found me in the top few rows of the building across the street, which had become known as the MECCA. I usually watched those games through binoculars.
From my corner seat at the BC, I saw the Bucks defeat the Hornets, 104-95, behind Glenn Robinson's 29 points to win the series, four games to three, and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1986.
And I heard something I thought I might never hear again. As I made my way to the Bucks lockerroom for postgame interviews some 20 minutes later, I heard car horns beeping in celebration along the streets bordering the building.
I never lost faith that the Bucks could make a run at a second NBA championship. But I did doubt that their fans would ever become anywhere near as jacked-up as they were during the franchise's 1970s and 1980s glory days.
I was glad to be proven wrong.
May 13, 1987
Game 5 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
Milwaukee Bucks 129, Boston Celtics 124
Somehow, fate seemed to be smiling on the Bucks for a change, and I was not alone in my hunch that this could be their best opportunity to make it back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.
Milwaukee had enjoyed a 50-32 season, but All-Star guard Sidney Moncrief, the team's inspirational leader, had missed 43 regular-season games due to injury and had passed his prime.
Few outsiders expected the Bucks to make a strong playoff push, but the team ousted Philadelphia with a 3-2 opening-round series victory, sending Julius Erving into retirement with a Game 5 win in Milwaukee.
The Bucks weren't finished, either. Faced with a 3-1 deficit in their Eastern semifinal series, they toppled the Celtics in Boston, 129-124, behind a Herculean 33-point performance by the battered Moncrief.
"Sir Sidney" followed that act with 34 points as the Bucks evened the series with a 121-111 win in Milwaukee two days later, but the valiant playoff run ended two days after that with a 119-113 loss at Boston.
April 3, 1970
Eastern Division Semifinals
Milwaukee Bucks 115, Philadelphia 76ers 106
It is a shame that Milwaukee didn't get to fully celebrate the franchise's first playoff series victory. It culminated with this milestone victory in Madison, where the team played its first-round home playoff games in 1970 and '71.
Rookie sensation Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) poured in a game-high 46 points to carry the Bucks past the 76ers, who got 28 points from Billy Cunningham.
Any ardent Bucks fan from those early years will remember what a breakthrough it was for Milwaukee's team to take down one of the Eastern elite (Philadelphia, Boston or New York).
The bonus was to hear the national announcers, always strongly biased in favor of the Eastern teams, absorb their lumps just as painfully as the 76ers did.
The most satisfying single win in this series may have come four days earlier when the Bucks set a franchise record for points in a playoff game with 156 and walloped the Sixers in Philly, 156-120. But the series clincher delivered the dagger.
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It has been 38 years since the Bucks captured the NBA championship. Bob Dandridge, one of the starting forwards on that team, has spent most of his days since then living on the East Coast.
During one of his visits to Milwaukee last season, though, Dandridge put the significance of the Bucks' title conquest in perspective.
“I think one thing that is real significant, no matter how young old you are, if you’re a Bucks fan, everybody is conscious of the players on the world championship team and their accomplishments,” Dandridge said. “Young fans today want to know what our guys have done in the past, and what shouts out is our championship team.
“We accomplished some things and set some milestones in the history of the franchise. And the people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin have never forgotten that. I think when you speak of world championships, you speak volumes of a franchise.”