Founded in 1968, the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t take long to make their mark. After their first season, a coin toss led them to draft collegiate sensation Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With his addition, a turnaround was seen immediately.
The New York Knicks overshadowed the 1969-70 season, but the message was clear: the Bucks meant business.
Chasing the Dream in the ’70s and ’80s
By the 1970-71 season, after acquiring Hall of Fame point guard Oscar Robertson, the Bucks dominated the NBA with a league-best record of 66–16. Their postseason run was notable for its efficiency, cruising past rivals to claim their first NBA title in just their third season – a record at that time for major North American professional team sports.
Post-Robertson and Abdul-Jabbar, the Bucks faced challenges. But with Wayne Embry making moves as the NBA’s first black general manager and Don Nelson at the helm as head coach, a revamped team emerged in the late 70s and 80s.
Featuring stars like Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief, and Junior Bridgeman, playoff appearances became a staple. Yet, finals’ glory remained elusive as powerhouses like the Celtics and the 76ers kept the Bucks at bay.
Ups and Downs in the ’90s
The 1990s started with playoff droughts. However, the selection of forward Glenn Robinson in 1994 signaled a shift. Joined by Ray Allen, the Bucks made promising playoff runs, even advancing to the Eastern Conference finals in 2000–01. But the 76ers proved to be a barrier once again.
The New Millennium Challenges
The 2000s were marked by sporadic success. All-Star guard Michael Redd led the Bucks to a few playoff appearances, but consistent winning seasons were hard to come by.
A rock-bottom 15-win season in 2013-14 was the lowest point. Yet, it set the stage for a fresh start under coach Jason Kidd and the emergence of a new star: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
A New Dawn with Antetokounmpo
The transformation of Antetokounmpo from a raw talent to a league MVP catapulted the Bucks back into contention. However, challenges persisted.
Frustration with Kidd’s coaching led to his dismissal in 2017-18, and consecutive playoff misfires made it evident that a change was necessary.
Budenholzer’s Defensive Mastery
Mike Budenholzer’s arrival as head coach in 2018 shifted the team’s dynamic. His defensive approach turned the Bucks into an NBA powerhouse, even as postseason success remained elusive. But the front office’s faith in Budenholzer and acquiring Jrue Holiday laid the foundation for the 2020-21 season’s magic.
2021: Triumph Over Adversity
Despite initial playoff hiccups, the 2020-21 season saw the Bucks fighting back, thanks to Holiday, Khris Middleton, and a dominant Antetokounmpo.
Overcoming a 2-0 deficit against the Phoenix Suns in the NBA finals, Antetokounmpo showcased a masterclass in basketball. Averaging remarkable stats, he capped the series with a 50-point game, sealing the Bucks’ second NBA championship.
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