Circling the Wagons: Can the Milwaukee Bucks Avoid Relocation?
In 1968, the National Basketball Association expanded with franchises in Phoenix and Milwaukee. After the two teams finished tied with the league's worst record in their respective first seasons, the NBA tossed a coin to determine who would draft first overall in 1969.
With the fate of two organizations resting on each side of a coin, the side favoring Milwaukee came up, allowing the Bucks to draft one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, Lew Alcindor, better known in NBA history as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
On the backs of Alcindor and free agent Oscar Robertson, the Milwaukee Bucks became one of the most successful expansion franchises of all-time in any sport. They won the league championship in only their third season of existence and rattled off three consecutive 60-win seasons between 1970 and 1973.
In the summer of 1975, Milwaukee indefensibly traded Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers for four players who are of no significance historically speaking. Despite the baffling move, the Bucks continued to have success in the 1980s under coach Don Nelson, earning seven consecutive division titles from 1980 to 1986 behind the leadership of the under-appreciated Sidney Moncrief.
Since that point, the franchise has been in a steady decline, and aside from another division title and run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001, the Bucks have been mostly irrelevant for the past 25 years or so.
This lack of success has led the Bucks to where they are today: The sixth-most popular sports entity in a state with only three professional teams, and this makes the once-proud franchise a tragic candidate for relocation.
Of course, the Bucks could dodge their seemingly inevitable fate, and like anything else in sports, winning is the elixir the franchise needs. But are they doing enough right now?
It's true the Bucks are restricted by the small market in which they play, but not as restricted as meets the eye.
Milwaukee is underrated as a basketball town, mainly because the biggest basketball attractions are collegiate ones and also because the biggest successes in the city came 30 years ago.
Still, the Marquette Golden Eagles routinely sell out Big East games at the Bradley Center and even though the crosstown rivalry has been lopsided (Marquette has never lost to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers), both sides take the newly renewed rivalry seriously.
With the right players, the Bucks could tap back into that Milwaukee fan base, one that is just waiting for the right player or group of players to cling on to, much like recent iterations of the Milwaukee Brewers have provided.
Unfortunately, those players just aren't present at the moment. Who's going to provide the basketball equivalent of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder for the Bucks? Certainly not Andrew Bogut or Michael Redd, both of whom are good basketball players but who are not great ones.
Recent moves such as the addition of Hakim Warrick and Sonny Weems aren't ones for Milwaukeeans to rally around in support of the team, either. And if Ramon Sessions ends up leaving, there will be little to nothing to look forward to as a Bucks fan.
If there's no reason for fans to show up to the Bradley Center, it only follows that there will be no reason for any owner to stay in Milwaukee in an empty, dated arena.
As a Wisconsin sports fan, I'm hoping that the Bucks can rally my support and that of the many other sports fans in this state. As the offseason goes by, however, it seems that the relocation of one of the NBA's proudest franchises is getting closer and closer.
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