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Milwaukee Bucks Summary
The Milwaukee Bucks have been in existence since joining the NBA as an expansion franchise in 1968, but they are currently in one of the top times in franchise history. The Bucks enter the 2021-22 season as the defending NBA champions and feature one of the top players in the league in two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
There doesn’t seem to be any signs of stopping the success, with Antetokounmpo in his late 20s and the rest of the supporting cast still being in the prime of their NBA careers. All-Star forward Khris Middleton is also an essential part of the team’s success, and the duo looks to be keeping Milwaukee near the top of the NBA for a while to come.
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Milwaukee Bucks History
The Bucks joined the NBA for the 1968-69 season, finishing 27-55. For Milwaukee, it was just what the team needed to jump-start its success, as it earned the top pick in the 1969 NBA Draft and the biggest prize of them all, UCLA center Lew Alcindor. Alcindor won the Rookie of the Year award in 1969-70 and led the Bucks to the first of five straight playoff appearances.
Teaming with guard Oscar Robertson, Alcindor won league MVP honors in his second season as the Bucks advanced to the NBA Finals, defeating the Baltimore Bullets in a four-game sweep for the team’s first league title. Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but continued to dominate, helping the Bucks to the 1974 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games.
After a last-place finish the following season, Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Bucks had a seven-year stretch with just one playoff series victory. Head coach Don Nelson helped make the Bucks become title contenders again with players like Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief, and Paul Pressey. Still, three conference finals appearances in a four-season span was the farthest the team could get.
From 1989-90 to 2017-18, Milwaukee made the playoffs 13 times but advanced past the first round just once. The 2000-01 squad, led by Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell made it to the Eastern Conference finals but lost a seven-game series to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 2013 NBA Draft brought a project in the 15th pick in Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” continued to improve, as did the Bucks, with the team advancing to the Eastern Conference finals in Antetokounmpo’s first NBA MVP season in 2018-19. Milwaukee came up short against the Toronto Raptors, then were upset the following season in the playoffs by the Miami Heat.
But 2020-21 was a magical year for the franchise, which advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in 47 years, then rallied from a 2-0 series deficit in the championship series to knock off the Phoenix Suns for the team’s second NBA title.
Championships Won by the Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks wasted little time in winning the first championship in franchise history, advancing to the NBA Finals in just the third year of existence for the team. It certainly helped to have an all-time great leading the way, as Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) won league MVP honors in his second NBA season and led Milwaukee to the 1971 NBA Finals, where it swept the Baltimore Bullets in four games.
After getting the first title in a hurry, the Bucks had to wait another 50 years before winning the second NBA crown in team history. The 2020-21 Bucks rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the conference semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets, then a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns to win the franchise’s second NBA championship.
Milwaukee won a third conference title in the 1974 postseason, defeating the Chicago Bulls in the Western Conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals. They lost to the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series.
The Bucks have also won 16 division championships over the years, including the last three Central Division crowns.
Important Team Events
The coin flip that gave the Milwaukee Bucks the No. 1 overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft and the ability to take UCLA center Lew Alcindor turned around the fortunes of the expansion team immediately.
Alcindor dominated in his six seasons with Milwaukee, winning three league MVP awards and taking the Bucks to the NBA Finals twice, with a win over the Baltimore Bullets giving the franchise a league title in just its third season of existence.
On the other side was the trade that sent Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the 1975-76 season. Abdul-Jabbar indicated he didn’t want to play for the team anymore, wanting to go to a bigger market, so the Bucks worked out a deal that brought them four players for one of the greatest players in league history.
Abdul-Jabbar would win five NBA titles with the Lakers while the Bucks would go 47 seasons between NBA Finals appearances.
There have been some excellent draft picks in the Bucks’ history, but the best may end up being the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, as Milwaukee selected Greek teenager Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The then-19-year-old had talent but was very raw, which is why he hung around to the 15th pick. The Bucks took a chance on Antetokounmpo, and he has made them happy they did, leading the team to the 2021 NBA title.
He only lasted six seasons in a Bucks uniform, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made such a mark on the franchise in both his arrival and departure that he should be considered the best player in team history. Abdul-Jabbar won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, two league MVP awards, and took the Bucks to the NBA Finals twice. In six seasons with the franchise, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 30.4 points and 15.3 rebounds per game, and he remains the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in franchise history.
The 1980s Bucks teams featured several perennial All-Stars, but Sidney Moncrief may have been the best of the bunch.
Moncrief spent ten seasons with the franchise, earning two Defensive Player of the Year awards and five All-Star Game appearances. Moncrief averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per game with Milwaukee and was one of the toughest players in the league throughout his playing career.
The legacy of Giannis Antetokounmpo is still being written, but the “Greek Freak” already has two NBA MVP awards and a Finals MVP to his credit at the age of 27. Antetokounmpo averaged 20.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks over the first eight seasons of his NBA career, turning the Bucks into a perennial title contender.
Though he never won an NBA title with the Bucks, Don Nelson is considered one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, mostly for his time with Milwaukee. Nelson was an innovator, creating the “point forward” position for a player like Paul Pressey and going with unconventional lineups to better utilize the talent at his disposal.
Nelson won 61.1 percent of the regular-season games he coached with the Bucks, earning NBA Coach of the Year honors twice (1983, 1985).
Larry Costello had the advantage of having a pair of all-time greats on his roster in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. Still, the first head coach in Bucks history also led the team to 410 regular-season victories and the NBA title in 1971. Costello won 61 percent of the games he coached for the Bucks, both regular season and playoffs.
Mike Budenholzer has quickly established himself as one of the top coaches in franchise history, winning NBA Coach of the Year honors for the 2018-19 season and leading the Bucks to the 2021 NBA title.
Budenholzer has the highest regular-season winning percentage in team history at 71.4 percent. He guided the Bucks to Central Division titles in each of his first three seasons with the club.
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Milwaukee Bucks FAQs
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 14,211 points in his six seasons with the Bucks, the most in franchise history.
Two men have won the NBA’s MVP award a total of five times while playing for the Bucks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (previously Lew Alcindor) in 1970-71, 1971-72, and 1973-74, and Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
The Bucks have two NBA titles in the team’s history, winning the NBA Finals in 1971 and 2021.
Don Nelson won 540 regular-season games during his 11 seasons as the Bucks head coach.
The Bucks have selected first in the NBA Draft four times, taking Lew Alcindor (1969), Kent Benson (1977), Glenn Robinson (1984), and Andrew Bogut (2005)