Most critics agree that the 1996 NBA Draft is one of the deepest in league history. 10 of the top-20 picks went on to be All-Stars, with names like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson all being picked in the first round.
The Bucks initially drafted Stephon Marbury with the No. 5 pick. Marbury proved his mettle during his freshman year at Georgia Tech, combining speed and playground-style toughness on the court.
Most believed Marbury was destined for greatness, and the pick was almost immediately considered a success by Bucks fans.
Minnesota picked next and took junior Ray Allen from Connecticut. Allen had more college experience under his belt but didn't have the flash and showmanship that Marbury displayed. Most predicted Allen would be good, but nothing special.
Opposite of the previous Dirk Nowitzki slide, when the Bucks drafted Marbury, I was as pumped up as anyone in Milwaukee.
Georgia Tech was a regular fixture on ESPN's college basketball coverage that year, and Marbury was always the center of attention during the highlight reels. To have a player of his caliber come to Milwaukee prompted immediate excitement among fans.
Lo and behold, roughly a half-hour after the Bucks had seemingly breathed life back into their franchise, they went ahead and swapped picks with Minnesota, sending Marbury to the T-Wolves and Allen to the Bucks.
Boo's immediately filled the Bradley Center's draft night festivities. Fans couldn't believe that management would trade a player with such huge potential as Marbury's for a player with average expectations like Allen. I must admit that I felt the same way, but again, I was proven wrong.
Allen turned out to be the perfect compliment to the 1994 first overall pick by the Bucks, Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. With the addition of Sam Cassell and coach George Karl, the Bucks went from pretender to contender in a span of three seasons.
Allen, Robinson, and Cassell formed Milwaukee's "Big Three" and catapulted the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. After a crushing defeat by the 76ers in seven games, the Bucks vowed to return next season stronger and more determined, but ultimately imploded and missed the playoffs.
It was that implosion that would lead to the depressing breakup of the "Big Three." Karl and Allen butted heads over defensive play, which prompted Milwaukee to make one of the most controversial (and in my mind, completely terrible), trades ever, sending Allen to Seattle for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason.
To this day, I believe the Bucks and their fans have never fully recovered from this trade. Gary Payton abandoned the team in the offseason and signed with the Lakers, and Glenn Robinson was traded to the Atlanta Hawks.
All the strength and excitement that defined Bucks basketball for a three-year period was dealt away in one fell swoop.
However, it goes without saying that the Bucks still got the best out of this draft-day swap. Marbury has proven himself to be a cancer in the locker room and a headache for fans and management.
If there's one thing Wisconsinites hate, it's bad attitudes and complainers. Simply put, Marbury would have been eaten alive by the media and fans had he stuck around.
Allen, meanwhile, was a key cog in Boston's championship run last season, and he remains one of the more popular players in the league. No matter what uniform he wears, he'll always be a Buck in the minds of Milwaukee fans.