Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving expressed concerns about the court the Milwaukee Bucks were using for "Return to the MECCA" at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, appearing to believe the Bucks were bringing back the actual court the Bucks played on at their former arena between 1977-1988.
"I'm all about safety, so we'll see how it is on my knees, see how it is on everyone's bodies," Irving noted, per Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. "I know this is a pretty older court and it looks like it's fresh painted as well. I'm just going to do my assessment and go from there."
The Bucks, however, are using a replica court that has been painted to resemble the original in celebration of their 50th year as a franchise.
But after being informed of that fact, Irving maintained that something felt off to him while he walked over the court during shootaround.
"It took me three steps to realize this is not the same NBA court I'm used to playing on," he said. "We'll see what's up."
Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo noted that the court did take some getting used to, albeit for different reasons.
“Being on this floor that has a lot of history—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, a lot of players played on this floor—I’m excited for tomorrow’s game," he said, per Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It takes a little bit of time to get used to [the court] because it’s kind of bright. That’s why we practiced today here so we can get used to it, but I love it."
The MECCA—an acronym for the Milwaukee Exposition, Convention Center and Arena—still stands in Milwaukee and will seat 12,700 fans for Thursday's game against Boston. The court itself is iconic due to the design that pop artist Robert Indiana created for the Bucks, per Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.
If the aesthetic feels familiar, Indiana also created the famous "LOVE" design.
The Bucks had considered using the original floor, but that idea was nixed.
"From the standpoint of it being a 60-year-old floor—that floor predated the Bucks even—with its dead spots and player-safety issues, [the NBA] wouldn’t give us the green light for that," the team's chief marketing officer, Dustin Godsey, told Aschburner. "So we went to work on [a replica provided by the team’s floor contractor], getting permission from the people who assigned rights for Robert Indiana’s artwork."
"It sort of came down to the wire—we didn’t know we’d get it done and we had some contingency plans, but this was our hope from the beginning," he added.