Jake's Take: 06/11/10

June 11, 2010
Jake LeRoy

In Retrospect: Sidney Moncrief

The proverb "To know where you're going, you have to know where you've been" has always struck a chord with me. I find it to be very insightful and would gladly split beers with the person who could rightfully trademark it. This phrase took on extra meaning for me after the conclusion of the 2009-10 season as I contemplated where it stood in the lore of Bucks basketball. I soon realized that I couldn't accurately position this season without having a more comprehensive base of knowledge about the franchise.

So I decided to look back on the squads that were. I wanted to gain a more complete understanding of the players and teams that came before my fandom reached overdrive. One of my earliest memories was the drafting of Vin Baker in 1993, when I was a mere ten years of age. In a reoccurring column throughout the summer, I'm going to indulge in some reminiscing about teams and players that came before that fateful year that kick-started my undying loyalty for the Milwaukee Bucks. And I'm going to start with...

Sidney Moncrief, aka Sid the Squid, aka Sir Sid, aka El Sid

My adoration for Moncrief's throwback Bucks jersey has been well-documented. But it feels weird touting the pure awesomeness of a jersey without really knowing much about the player that wore it. Not only was the style of jersey among the best of the 80s, but the player underneath it wasn't half bad either.

An Arkansas native, Moncrief stayed home when colleges came calling, becoming a part of what would develop into a potent Razorback team. Under the guidance of college basketball coaching icons Eddie Sutton and Gene Keady's comb-over, Moncrief shot greater than 60 percent from the floor for his career and is one of just 99 players in college basketball history to total more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. After leading a previously mediocre Arkansas program to the 1978 Final Four, it's not unfair to say that Moncrief laid the groundwork for what would become one of college basketball's best programs of the 80s and 90s.

The Squid was just getting started, though, as his professional career was about to tip off. Doctors said a degenerative knee condition would drastically reduce Moncrief's high-flying capabilities and possibly limit his NBA life to no more than two years. The condition didn't become an issue into much later, though, as he would go on to become one of the most celebrated players in Milwaukee history.

Moncrief is considered by many to be the most underrated player of the 80s. Names like Magic, Larry, Isiah and Jordan dominated the headlines, but there were few players who could match the all-around brilliance that Moncrief displayed on a nightly basis. Over a five-year stretch from 1981 to 1986, he averaged 21 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists, while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 83.9 percent from the line.

What Moncrief's career stats don't fully convey is the dominance he routinely displayed on the defensive end (and in front of the camera). Big men have garnered many of the votes for defensive player of the year over the years, but it was the 6-foot-3 Moncrief who took home the prize in its first two years of existence. The award was practically invented solely to recognize his defensive skills. In the 28-year history of the award, only five players under 6-foot-7 have received the award and Moncrief was the only to receive it twice. All told, he was named to an all-defensive team every year from 1981 to 1986.

Sir Sid's mere presence on the court seemed to work wonders for every team he touched. After invigorating the Arkansas program, he joined the Bucks in 1979 and Milwaukee promptly saw its win total increase from 38 to 49. The Bucks improved by another 11 games the following year, taking home the division title for the second consecutive year. With Moncrief leading the way, Milwaukee would go on to win the division crown seven straight years and eclipse 50 wins in eight consecutive seasons. Overall, the Bucks had the third-highest winning percentage in the 80s -- surpassed by only the Lakers and Celtics -- and much of that can be attributed to Moncrief.

It appears that Moncrief will never reach the NBA's Hall of Fame, and that seems like a travesty to me. There's no doubt, though, that Moncrief will forever be a part of Milwaukee's Hall of Fame. He's one of only three Bucks (along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Marques Johnson) to be named first-team all-NBA and one of only four (along with Kareem, Paul Pressey and Alvin Robertson) to be named to the all-defensive first team. He also joins Kareem and Oscar Robertson as the only Bucks to be prominently featured on the cover of a Sports Illustrated. Here's where Moncrief stands in the all-time career record books with Milwaukee:

1st: Free throws, free-throw attempts, true shooting percentage, offensive rating
2nd: Games, minutes played, offensive rebounds, assists, win shares
3rd: Steals, points
6th: Total rebounds, player efficiency rating
7th: Defensive rebounds,
8th: Field goals, field-goal attempts

I don't think there's any doubt that Scott Skiles could certainly find a spot on the roster for the El Sid of the 80s. His strong defensive ability, unselfishness and all-court game were among the best of the decade and those qualities were a big reason why Milwaukee won so much. A little bit of Moncrief in each of the current Bucks could go a long way toward making the upcoming decade as successful as the 80s version that preceded it.

Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.

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