Bucks’ forward progress began with Dandridge
Fourth-round gem became first in long line of great ones
by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com

Bob Dandridge was one of 20 Bucks selected to the 40th Anniversary Team. (Getty)
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April 14, 2008

MILWAUKEE -- Back in the day -- OK, way back in the day -- those in basketball circles referred to them as “corner men.”

In the contemporary game, those who aren’t deemed “tweeners” or “swingmen” are categorized as being of either the “power” or “small” variety – a “4” or a “3.”

When many of the Milwaukee Bucks’ all-time greats revisited Milwaukee last month to be honored as member of the franchise’s 20-member 40th anniversary team, Bucks fans were reminded of what a vital role forwards have played in the team’s success over the last four decades.

The Bucks made the single most significant and influential draft pick in their 40 years back in 1969, when they selected UCLA All-American center Lew Alcindor with the first overall pick. He would become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the centerpiece of Milwaukee’s 1970-71 World Championship team.

Much later on the same day, the Bucks made another choice with a far lower profile who wound up paying enormous dividends and establishing a rich tradition.

With its fourth-round pick in that draft, and the 45th overall selection, Milwaukee tabbed a slender, 6-foot-6-inch forward by the name of Bob Dandridge out of Norfolk State University in Virginia.

The pick hardly sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the league. Not only were more than 20 forwards -- most from far bigger and higher-profile schools -- chosen before Dandridge, but he wasn’t even the first player drafted that year out of tiny Norfolk State. That distinction went to Charles Bonaparte.

So Dandridge not only came from a small pond, but was not even considered a big fish, even though he had set a Norfolk State record as a senior, averaging 32 points per game.

Thirteen years later, though, he retired from the NBA with 17,227 points and two NBA championship rings, as a four-time All-Star.

Not one of the forwards drafted ahead of Dandridge – guys like Simmie Hill, Kenny Spain, Ed Siudut, Wally Anderzunas, Lamar "Helicopter" Green and Eddie Mast – even came close to matching that resume.

In fact, Dandridge scored more regular-season NBA points than Terry Driscoll, Bobby "Bingo" Smith, Bob Portman and Bud Ogden -- the first four forwards drafted that season -- scored between them.

Dandridge scored more career points than several members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, including the great Bill Russell.

And from a Milwaukee perspective, Dandridge was a pioneer.

He remembered those days during his visit for the Bucks’ 40th anniversary celebration.

“Being here and seeing especially the forwards, like Junior Bridgeman, Marques Johnson, Terry Cummings, Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson, that adds special significance, because I was the first in a line of good forwards to play for this franchise,” Dandridge said. “Whenever I think about Milwaukee’s team, I think about the tradition of forwards that that they have had here.

“They’ve always been able to identify good forwards. I’ve always kept up with the forwards in particular, and we acknowledge each other when we cross each others’ paths.”

Nicknamed “The Greyhound” by Bucks announcer Eddie Doucette, Dandridge started all but one of the Bucks’ regular-season games during his first year as a pro and joined Alcindor on the NBA All-Rookie Team after averaging 13.2 points per outing.

He was the starting small forward on the Bucks’ championship team. He was an NBA All-Star in four consecutive seasons spanning 1973 through ’76, and led the Bucks in scoring in 1976-77 at 20.8 points a game.

Dandridge was, for the most part, overshadowed by Alcindor and by Oscar Robertson, who was acquired by the Bucks in his second season. He sacrificed scoring opportunities to defer to the two future Hall-of-Famers and become coach Larry Costello’s defensive stopper.

After Robertson retired, Dandridge shouldered more scoring responsibility and delivered, yet remained one of the NBA’s premier defensive small forwards.

He played 618 games in a Milwaukee uniform. Only Bridgeman and Sidney Moncrief played more.

“I still have a lot of good friends here in Milwaukee,” Dandridge said. “Whenever I come back, people I may not have known say, ‘It’s really good to have you back.’ That’s really emotional for me, because being a 20-year-old leaving Norfolk, Va., and coming to Milwaukee was kind of like coming to the big time.

“A lot of my adult-made friends are right here in Milwaukee. I usually come back twice a year to visit. I come back in the summer and play golf, stay about four or five days. For me, not coming from a big program, I consider Milwaukee home for me and where it all began. So it has a real special place for me, especially having won a championship here.”

Thirty seven years have passed since the Bucks’ championship conquest, but Dandridge still crosses paths with many fans who hold the title team and its accomplishments in high esteem.

“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,” he said. “Young fans today want to know what our guys have done in the past, and what shoots 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.”

Dandridge’s pride in being a Milwaukee Buck extends beyond the basketball court.

“The Bucks have had some great citizens, too – guys like Junior Bridgeman, Terry Cummings and so many others,” he said. “Good, good, quality people. And the Bucks organization has maintained a certain high level of quality, from Wes Pavalon all the way through to the Senator (Herb Kohl), holding onto this team.

“There’s just something special about being here, something you find that doesn’t exist in other franchises in the country.”