Truman Reed sets up campaign headquarters

Truman Reed sets up campaign headquarters
Lobbies for Robinson, Dandridge as Bucks all-time greats
by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com

Dandridge played in 618 games as a Bucks, third only to Junior Bridgeman and Sidney Moncrief. (Getty)
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February 19, 2008

MILWAUKEE -- While the “other” polls in Wisconsin will close tonight, the voting will continue through Monday, Feb. 25, for the Milwaukee Bucks 40th Anniversary Team.

So consider this a bit of last-minute campaigning. (By the way, you can vote here.)

During the commemoration of the Bucks’ first 40 years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with some of the franchise’s founding fathers and some of its all-time greats.

I’ve also participated in skull sessions with numerous colleagues and with fans young and old, mulling over which players’ photos we plan to drag onto our “Best Bucks” ballots.

These caucuses have drawn a couple of noteworthy trends.

Those men who were there during the Bucks’ early years have unanimously mentioned two ex-Bucks as integral, yet sometimes overlooked components of the team’s core.

Other folks who weren’t around to watch them play give rather quizzical looks when their names are brought into the conversation.

The first of these two individuals could have identified with the Biblical Moses, who led the Israelites on a long and arduous journey, but was not allowed to accompany them into the promised land.

A sharp-shooting guard by the name of Flynn Robinson, who had excelled collegiately in relative obscurity at the University of Wyoming, seized his professional opportunity in Milwaukee and helped lead the team from the bottom toward the top.

Robinson was traded, however, before the Bucks reached their promised land and won the NBA championship in 1971.

Only two players in the Bucks’ illustrious history – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Redd – have had more 40-point games than the 6-foot-1-inch Robinson, whose proficiency at shooting the basketball prompted Bucks announcer Eddie Doucette to nickname him “The Electric Eye.”

When Bucks Coach Larry Costello positioned Robinson alongside Jon McGlocklin – the purest jumpshooter this 40-year observer has surveyed on the NBA landscape, he created an unparalleled backcourt of marksmen. They averaged a combined 39.9 points per game in the Bucks’ inaugural season. The following year, Robinson scored at a 21.6 clip and led the NBA in free-throw shooting at .898. The two consistently rang up their points even though every defense they faced was focused on them.

And while Abdul-Jabbar spaced out his 40-point outings -- there were 55 of them -- over a seven-year span, and Redd achieved his eight over four seasons, Robinson accomplished all six of his during one calendar year, 1969.

Remarkably, three of Robinson’s outbursts came during a blistering streak of three consecutive games in February.

He first lit up the Los Angeles Lakers for 41 in a 106-97 Bucks home victory, then came back the very next night with 43 against Atlanta in a 123-111 road win. Next came a 45-point barrage in a 108-107 thriller over Detroit five days after that, and the expansion Bucks went on to win a season-best six consecutive games.

Those who were there to witness Robinson’s amazing display claim he would have topped 50 points in each of those outings –and probably many others -- if the 3-point line had existed back then.

As Greg Kihn once sang, “They don’t write ‘em like that anymore.”

Robinson’s most lasting legacy is probably the fact that he was the main player traded for Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson. No one else in the league’s history can say that.

And though Robinson wasn’t around to share in the Bucks’ title conquest after helping them reach the brink, he did get some just desserts, earning a championship ring of his own with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972.

With all the commotion surrounding Lew Alcindor’s 1969 Milwaukee arrival, another rookie who had enjoyed an enormously successful collegiate career came to town without stirring even a mouse.

Before he left, though, Bob Dandridge became a prominent figure not only on the Brew City’s landscape, but the NBA’s.

The slender, 6-foot-6-inch forward, chosen by the Bucks in the fourth round of the 1969 NBA Draft, had established a Norfolk State University scoring record as a senior, averaging better than 32 points per game.

The 7-foot-2 ½-inch Alcindor towered over not only his rookie class, but most of the NBA in 1969-70, winning the league’s Rookie of the Year Award and earning spots on the All-NBA Second Team, NBA All-Defensive Second Team, NBA All-Star Team and NBA All-Rookie Team.

Dandridge, meanwhile, quietly made quite a name for himself. He started all but one of the Bucks’ regular-season games and joined Alcindor on the All-Rookie unit after averaging 13.2 points per outing.

He was the starting small forward on the Bucks’ 1970-71 NBA championship team. He later emerged as an NBA All-Star in his own right, making the elite squad four consecutive times spanning 1973 through ’76, and led the Bucks in scoring in 1976-77 at 20.8 points a game.

Playing alongside Alcindor, who would become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and another Hall-of-Famer in Oscar Robertson, the soft-spoken Dandridge could have easily been lost in the shuffle, but he carved out an indelible niche for himself in team annals.

One of Dandridge’s most ardent admirers was Larry Reed, a former University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee basketball star who witnessed the birth of the Bucks and became a team executive during their early years.

Reed spoke recently of how Dandridge, who was among the nation’s scoring leaders as a collegian, willingly played third-fiddle to Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson during the early years of his career. He shouldered the responsibility of being Coach Larry Costello’s defensive stopper.

Once Robertson retired, Dandridge stepped up his offensive production and remained one of the NBA’s premier defensive small forwards.

Dandridge played 618 games in a Milwaukee uniform. Only Junior Bridgeman and Sidney Moncrief have played more. He ranks as the Bucks’ fourth all-time scorer with 11,478 points. He finished his NBA career with 15.530 points, playing eight seasons with the Bucks, four with the Washington Bullets and then one more after a return to Milwaukee.

And as you cast your votes, remember this, too. When Flynn Robinson was enjoying his heyday with the Milwaukee Bucks, and when Bob Dandridge entered the NBA, there were 14 teams in the league – 16 fewer than there are today. That meant there were less than half as many roster spots available back then.

So Robinson and Dandridge had to excel not only in doing their jobs, but in landing them as well.