Not Easy Being Green (and Red)
Posted Dec 5 2006 3:18PM
NOV. 7, 2006 -- Introductory columns stink. It's like going to your college's freshman mixer with a "Hello, My Name Is..." tag and trying to pick out someone you think is cool to talk to.
"So, what's your major?"
"Oh, you like to read."
It's beyond awkward.
But considering this is Issue I of Vol. I of Central Intelligence, we should probably get to know each other, even if briefly.
Let's get the pleasantries out of the way so we can get to the column, shall we? First, my manifesto should give you a little insight as to who I am as a hoops fan:
Shooters are made, not born; Point guards are born, not made; All big men should be able to hit a 15-footer; Next to reversing the ball with crisp passing, dribble penetration is the second best way to find the open man; If you're that open man, you should be ready to shoot, dribble or pass when you get the ball; If you're 6-10 or taller, and you play 30 minutes per, there's no reason you shouldn't average at least seven boards per game; You should either give or receive one hard pick per game; The complaining about the new ball is stupid; Saying "scoring the ball" or "rebounding the ball" is unnecessary (What else are you going to score or rebound?); Defense can win games, offense can win games, but balance win championships; The best uniforms in NBA history are the Warriors' old "The City" unis; Every NBA game is good, but its that much better when each team scores 100 or more points; Oscar Robertson doesn't nearly get the credit he deserves for averaging a triple-double the first five years of his career; And, finally, you should have a basketball and shoes in the trunk of your car at all times ...
And that's just a start. You'll see more of them the season progresses. At the end of this column, I'll give everyone a chance to respond with their manifesto, but for now, my column, my manifesto, my Central Intelligence.
As for the column itself, well ... here's the last, and possibly most important thing you should know about me: I'm a Bucks fan.
Talk about awkward silences.
And I'll write this column from the perspective of a Bucks fan, a Midwesterner, a citizen raised in flyover country. (Hence, Central Intelligence as in the Central Division). The reason? Well, I have two:
One, there aren't too many of us around here where I live in the greater Big Apple area. It's either Knicks fans or transplanted Sixers fans. (Strangely enough, Nets fans would be the third party in a two party race around here.)
Two, the powers that be here at .com think you should know what it's like to be a Bucks fan.
So, what's it like?
Let me tell you, it started out well. Maybe too well.
The Bucks drafted Lew Alcindor (soon to be Kareem) in 1970. The very next season, only their third in the league, the Bucks won their first, and only, NBA title. Not only did the Bucks set a then-NBA record 20 consecutive wins, not only did they win 66 games, but Kareem and the Big O led Milwaukee to a sweep of the then-Baltimore Bullets in the Finals.
Three seasons! No expansion franchise in any of the major professional sports has ever attained glory as quickly, before or since.
And since then? Well, being a Bucks fan has been a tantalizing experience, to say the least. You bend your head to take a drink, and the water recedes. You extend for a grape to sate your hunger, and the wind blows the branch out of reach. We are a thirsty and hungry bunch, we Bucks fans.
-- One season after their title, the Bucks drafted Julius Erving with the No. 12 pick in the 1972 Draft. Could you imagine a team with Kareem, Oscar and Dr. J? I can. I still can. Alas, the good doctor chose to practice his medicine in the ABA. Maybe that's why fans at the Milwaukee Arena booed him when he won the All-Star Game MVP in 1977 as a Sixer. And maybe that's why the All-Star Game hasn't been back. If that's the case, on behalf of all Bucks fans, I apologize. We will never boo Dr. J again. Promise.
-- The Bucks had Game 7 of the 1974 Finals on their home floor ... and lost to the Celtics, by 15! My franchise hasn't been back to a Finals.
-- After the 1975 season, they traded Kareem to the ... ugh ... Lakers. And, guess what? Kareem is still the Bucks' all-time leading scorer.
-- Starting with a Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the 1978 Western Conference semis, the Bucks are 2-5 in Game 7s, including a one-point loss to the Sixers in the East semis in 1981 where the ball ended up in the hands, of all people, a journeyman named Robert Smith. When, with time running out in the game, he passed and didn't shoot, the Milwaukee Journal ran a headline that ran across the broadsheet: "Sixers 99, Bucks 98: Oh shoot, Robert!" How does a team with Bob Lanier, Marques Johnson and Sidney Moncrief have the ball in Robert Smith's hands?
-- The Bucks also lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. Also to the Sixers. Let's not get me started on that series.
-- The Bulls ... double ugh ... won their record 70th game at Bradley Center.
-- Oh, and April 2002, when the Bucks were in first place in the Central, but nose-dived out of the playoffs, capping my most horrifying fan experience ever.
That's not to say there haven't been great times as a Bucks fan. We've had plenty. The Bucks swept Larry Bird's Celtics in 1983. (Of course, as Bucks' luck would have it, they ran into the "Fo, Fi, Fo" Sixers, and bowed out 4-1 in the East Finals.) There were the seven consecutive division titles from 1980-1986. The run to the East Finals in 2001. I was even privileged enough to work for them in the early '90s.
But the '80s proved to be extra frustrating as those seven division titles didn't translate into one Finals experience. The Bucks could never get past the Celtics or Sixers. They never had the horses in the post to compete. Any you really need to wonder about my psyche when I say three of the franchise's top 10 memorable games are losses.
First, in 1982, the Bucks and the Spurs dueled for three OTs, but lost 171-166. The 337 combined points was a league record ... for 21 months, until the Pistons and Nuggets blew it out of the water with their 370-point 3OT thriller. See, the Bucks can't even keep their records for long.
And then there was Game 5 against the Pacers in the First Round of the East playoffs of 2000. The Bucks had a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter and Sam Cassell is killin', and I mean killin' anyone the Pacers put on him. But, alas, Sam has five fouls. As Sam pulls one of his classic step-in, step-back jumpers, Derrick McKey falls back. Whistle. Offensive foul.
Not four minutes later, with the shot clock winding down, Travis Best hits his only shot of the game, a three right in front of the Bucks' bench to give the Pacers a one-point lead, and ultimately, the win.
Then, there was Glenn Robinson's just-short shot in Game 5 against the Sixers in the 2001 East Finals.
So close. Tantalizing.
But that's the nature of us Bucks fans. We can see greatness in our team even if our team does not achieve it. Are we consigned to losing? No, not in the least.
And this year's edition -- with Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villanueva and Michael Redd leading the way -- gives Bucks fans hope, if not for a Playoffs berth this season, but success in the very near future.
But then again, it's been the future for 35 years. Being a Bucks fan is not about being frustrated with the franchise, like Knicks fans. No, it's about rooting for a team that's been close, so close, but hasn't been able to close ... and imagining what that day will feel like when they finally do.
We hope that day comes sooner, rather than later.
Want to send in your NBA manifesto to Central Intelligence? Mail us!