50 Favorite Bucks of the Century
Everyone will have a different list of favorite players. Does anyone (any Bucks fan) have a different favorite player (favorite Bucks player)?
This list is exclusive to the 2000s, to sync with when I have the strongest memories of watching the team. So, no Alvin Robertson. And everything here is liable to change every day. It changed every day I was working on it (though the top 10 stayed secure).
Fifty favorite players for 50 years of the Milwaukee Bucks Basketball Club.
50. Kenyon Martin
Before his first game with the Bucks (just in after signing a 10-day contract), Kenyon was asked by an assistant coach in the locker room if he wanted to watch tape on the opponent. He kept on walking, proclaiming: “Nah, I play everyone the same.” Which is to say, Kenyon Martin was the number one pick in the 2000 draft and he knew that to be fact, and fifteen years later, he was still the number one pick in the 2000 draft and he still knew that to be fact.
49. Mo Williams
Purest distillation of the 2004–2008 Bucks epoch: The Mo Williams Show.
48. Jabari Parker
It was written that anyone who does what needs to be done with a perfect Jason Terry pass (nearly every Jason Terry pass in 2016–17 was a perfect Jason Terry pass) like this gets a spot.
47. Andrew Bogut
Bogut’s true apex only lasted a couple years, and more specifically, a couple months, in the middle of the 2009–10 season, when he was perhaps the best defensive player in the league for the hottest team in the league. (Long before that, he high-fived invisible teammates.)
46. Ish Smith
Ish only played 138 minutes for the Bucks, but some of those minutes were some of the most refreshing guard minutes on the Bucks in 6 team.
45. Brandon Jennings
Things fell apart. But there were times in the fall and winter of 2009 (and even again in the spring of 2009) when it felt like the Bucks had something. And it wasn’t that they didn’t, it just wasn’t lasting.
44. Jared Dudley
Precisely the guy who would whip this two-handed, overhead, cross-court inbound pass to Jerryd Bayless for the game-winning layup in Game 4 against the Bulls in 2015. Dudley did not move well, but he moved especially well to the right places, and the ball moved well from him.
43. Brandon Knight
He was just goodenough to (sometimes) make you think that he might be the answer (or an answer) at point guard. Sometimes. Knight was a gifted player yet a dichotomous one whose hard work and tough luck felt tied together on an ever-bizarre, ever-upward trajectory.
42. Ekpe Udoh
By age 24, Ekpe had a book club and an old-man game.
41. Sterling Brown
Pays attention on defense, holds follow-through.
40. Beno Udrih
Beno was best known for his pull-up jumper in transition. Who else could be best known for such a thing except Beno.
39. Darvin Ham
Ham could (and did) throw down a bit. That is pretty much all anyone will ever tell you. That was the main thing.
38. Damir Markota
37. Larry Sanders
Regardless, he was fun to watch on defense.
36. Gustavo Ayon
Ayon had footwork in the post and rebounded demonstratively.
35. Scott Williams
Some of my earliest NBA-watching memories were those early 1990s Bulls teams with Scott Williams. He won a few rings in Chicago, and, may have gotten one in Milwaukee if he hadn’t been suspended for this flagrant foul on Allen Iverson in Game 6 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. (Very probably not, but maybe.)
34. Richard Jefferson
The Bucks traded Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons for Jefferson. Shortly thereafter, the Bucks drafted Joe Alexander. This, the era of Yi and Joe Alexander, was, naturally, the time that I decided to start obsessively writing about the Bucks.
33. Kendall Marshall
While he had those early, pinpoint, quick passes, he also had an equally slow shot release, and as such, bombed threes from really far away, to give himself space.
32. Khris Middleton
Shooter’s touch. Pretty good at everything.
31. Keith Van Horn
Van Horn, who peaked particularly early rather than at age 28 and 29 while in Milwaukee, wore high socks and a comically oversized jersey and matching shorts.
30. Shaun Livingston
Honed that smooth 11-footer game a few years before finding gold out west.
29. Malcolm Brogdon
Full-time reverse layup practitioner Malcolm Brogdon also offers the occasional reverse dunk, occasionally deployed on LeBron James.
28. O.J. Mayo
Mayo had an aesthetically-pleasing shooting form and release. The ball did not go in as much as it should have, in Milwaukee. Nevertheless, one week, he helped beat the 24–0 Warriors and then in the rematch that same week touched Draymond’s head after the game. Although only 28, and although fighting through personal troubles, he became the vet, ready to stand up for his younger teammates, or confront Jimmy Butler or whomever.
27. John Henson
At once playful and the antagonist who blocks, taunts, and gets and chased by Matt Barnes.
26. Michael Beasley
Shot a career-high 53.2 percent on a career-usual difficulty, led all qualified players in glossy purple nail polish. Went to San Antonio without Giannis and beat the Spurs.
25. Drew Gooden
The Bucks amnestied Gooden, but I remember him fondly for throwing passes off the backboard to himself, posting triple-doubles and then referring to himself as Tragic Johnson, and inspiring MVP chants to ring out. He had a touch of Joel Embiid in him (or, vice-versa), personality and even hoops-wise.
24. Kurt Thomas
A decade or so after throwing Dennis Rodman to the floor, Kurt Thomas was still not in the mood. He was revered in the locker room, and brought some of that 1990s Knicks edge to the Fear The Deer team that was the second-best defensive team in the league.
23. John Salmons
Sleepily, jersey un-tucked, deftly using the basket to create space for himself on drives to the hoop, Salmons arrived to Milwaukee in mid-February of 2009 and turned the Fear The Deer season into the Fear The Deer season, helping lead the Bucks to 12 wins in his first 13 games and transform into the hottest team in the league going into the playoffs.
22. Sam Cassell
Automatic in the mid-range (incredibly, made a majority of his 341 shot attempts from 16 feet to inside the three-point line in 2000–2001) and crucial part of a Big 3 that nearly made the Finals, Cassell went on to punt a ball into the stands to the dismay of Popeye Jones during a game against MJ’s Wizards when things unraveled a bit in 2002.
21. Michael Redd
Distinctive lefty flick was all his own, and was liable to produce 42 points in a half.
20. Desmond Mason
19. Hakim Warrick
Warrick had one move: to immediately dunk as soon as he received the basketball, irrespective of where he was on the court.
18. Carlos Delfino
Reached back here and there for a surprising smash, a la present-day Malcolm Brogdon. Other than that, rarely stood out, but could do a bit of everything, and had perhaps the best season of his career (while playing the second-most minutes on the team) in the Fear The Deer year.
17. Eric Bledsoe
After starting their most hyped season since 2001 with a 4–6 record, the Bucks traded for Eric Bledsoe, who did this in his first game, which happened to be a win in San Antonio. That — bringing Giannis up and to the fore — has him in graces.
16. T.J. Ford
Players voted Ford the quickest player in the league in 2007, and he was at least that quick when he broke in to the NBA with Milwaukee in 2003. Ford was also liable to get up in his Bucks days, and looked in flashes as though he would become the best passing point guard in the world. Alas, back injuries forestalled dreams — or maybe they didn’t, because they said he made a complete recovery, so maybe it is just more convenient to try to remember something that could have been rather than for what it was.
15. Kendall Gill
Kendall Cedric Gill — who started his NBA career in 1990 wearing those classic Hornets uniforms on a team with guys like Muggsy Bogues, Armen Gilliam, Rex Chapman, and J.R. Reid — is very likely the most 1990s player ever. That matters dearly. He didn’t play for Milwaukee until the final season of his career, in 2004–05, and he only played 14 games for the team.
14. Ray Allen
To people who started watching Ray when he was in Boston or Miami: He did things like this (on Tracy McGrady, in the playoffs) in his Bucks days. Allen was the best Bucks player of the century before Giannis came along, and he was the best player on what is still (so far) the best Bucks team of the century. He is the best shooter in franchise history, with the most picture-perfect shot.
13. Ersan Ilyasova
Years: 2006–07, 2009–15
Pump-fakes, fadeaway layups, and charges drawn, distinctly Ilyasovian all.
12. Jerry Stackhouse
Infamously (and perhaps most memorably, in retrospect), I went home to rake leaves with my parents on the night that Brandon Jennings dropped 55, in what was my first full season covering Bucks games on press row. So my most memorable moment from that Fear The Deer season was Stackhouse singing the national anthem before Game 6. The stadium went from madhouse before the game to sadhouse during the game, but that moment lives.
11. Earl Boykins
This is how his Wikipedia early life story starts: “Boykins was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1976. As a child, his 5' 8” father, Willie Williams, would sneak Boykins into a gym in his gym bag.” Boykins could (should) make lists like this for all 10 teams he played for (Nuggets, Bucks, Clippers, Warriors, Wizards, Cavaliers, Hornets, Rockets, Nets, Magic). He is 5'5" and 135 pounds and he played for 10 NBA teams! The second-shortest player in league history only played one season in Milwaukee, but found time to lead the Bucks to a win over Kobe’s (eventual title-winning) Lakers in Los Angeles. He was a delight.
10. Zaza Pachulia
The surprising anchor of the fourth-best defense in the NBA in 2014–15 for the upstart Bucks, Zaza (once ranked as the seventh-greatest name in franchise history) remains one of the most aware (witness this pass to Khris Middleton for the game-winning three) and physical players I have seen in Milwaukee. Furthermore, my girlfriend is from the Republic of Georgia.
9. Rafer Alston
Rafer Alston was a streetballer named was Skip 2 My Lou who started his NBA career in Milwaukee. Sometimes he did streetball things in games. To do so risked him getting called for travels and into fights, and guaranteed him a spot here.
8. Luke Ridnour
One of just a few Idahoans to suit up for the Bucks, Ridnour played all 82 games and had the finest season of his career in 2009–10, functioning as the perfectly steady (/steadily perfect) backup point guard to rookie Brandon Jennings. All in all, he was the second-most productive player on that 46-win team. What gets him this high on the list though was his never-failing decisive fouls on fastbreaks. No one wrapped up a player to prevent an and-one like Ridnour, and no one on the Bucks has since. Much to my chagrin, I could not find a video on YouTube of Luke Ridnour fouling someone firmly. Someone find one! Long live Luke Ridnour open-court fouls.
7. Tony Snell
Champion of the subdued celebration (and everything). Mostly, shoots threes. Most endearing.
6. Glenn Robinson
As the star in what remains among the handful of best Bucks clips on YouTube, his running three-pointer to cap a frenetic stretch to end the third quarter of Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals encapsulates quintessential Glenn Robinson: pulling up and hitting, cool, casually cool. He was not the best (or even second-best) player of the Big 3 that year. But that isn’t always what matters most, at the time, or looking back.
5. Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas, wearer of double-headband and tall socks, played with style to match. Have you ever seen someone land after dunking better than Tim Thomas landed after dunking? You have not. The landing was an extension, a crucial part, of his dunk. Back in 2001, Ray Allen was quoted as saying that “Tim Thomas could be the best player in the league.” That was not true! But you could be forgiven for getting hypnotized by his ways for a minute here or there.
4. Ramon Sessions
Sessions was my first real interview (the story is in a lost part of the internet), in the spring of the 2008–09 season, in his first stint with the Bucks. He told me how he loved to watch Steve Nash play in college, how he patterned his game after Nash, Jason Kidd, and Chauncey Billups. He did not reach those heights. But he still holds the club record with 24 assists in a game (in his rookie season, no less), and followed that up the next season with a 44-point (13–18 shooting) and 12-assist number, as well as becoming the first D-League alum to net a triple-double. These were misfitting days in Bucks history, right before Fear The Deer, zero winning seasons in six years, and Sessions gave a couple glimmers. You knew he was probably not going to be a star, but it helped that he was around to do a believable impression once in a while.
3. Jason Terry
Fitting, that it was a 39 year-old Jason Terry who got to celebrate the moment of cool of the year by flying through center court when he hit the three to give the Bucks an 80–78 lead in Game 6 of the first round against the Raptors. After spending the whole season cheering for all of his teammates and encouraging fans to cheer, he inspired the loudest cheer of the season on his own. For all of the gorgeous passes thrown and all of the winning that Terry contributed to with the Bucks in 2016–17, it was this moment that let you lose yourself for a moment. It was in this moment that JET showed that even in a game that was eventually lost, that you can lose yourself for a moment.
2. Toni Kukoc
My introduction to the NBA was watching the Bulls (and their six title runs) on WGN and NBC in the early 1990s with my dad, a Chicagoan. I hadn’t remembered that Kukoc hit a game-winner in Milwaukee as a rookie in 1993 (before finding on YouTube now that he did), but I remember the effortless lefty shot, the passes that gave an impression of showiness but which were actually always functional, how Jordan flew from basket to basket while Kukoc merely floated his way from one side of the court to the other — how you could feel the calm he gave to teammates, how you could feel that calm that his teammates felt and then you started to feel it too just by watching, in his Chicago days and Milwaukee days alike.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Stuck in what was the all-too-familiar spot right in the middle of the league’s hierarchy after trying to make a run at the bottom end of the playoff ladder, the Bucks owned the #15 pick in the 2013 draft. Not an enviable position, but this was also not the usual type of draft where you were just dying to have a pick in the top five anyway. This was the year that Anthony Bennett went number one. This was the draft where there wasn’t a single superstar.