When I saw on Twitter on Wednesday that the Milwaukee Bucks had been sold, my heart sunk a little bit.
I had been a fan of the team my entire life, but a sale by Senator Herb Kohl was inevitable as he continued to age. The rumors had been floating around for months, even years; when, not will, the team get moved to Seattle?
And although I knew Herb Kohl said many times that he would only sell to somebody who would keep the team in the state he represented for 24 years, those who purchased the team had the say when they took over.
So forgive me for recalling dozens of fond memories at the Bradley Center.
* * *
I grew up in Gurnee, Ill., a suburb of Chicago right off of I-94. Our interstate access allowed us to easily take a one-hour trip down to Chicago if we ever wanted to. But it was also just an hour north to get to Milwaukee. It’s because of the proximity to these major cities that in the 1970’s, Six Flags opened a theme park there.
But I grew up in the 90s – when the greatest player of the era played for the team to the south – how on earth did I grow up a fan of a team that has seemingly been stuck in basketball purgatory all my life?
Well I wish I could say otherwise, but I don’t recall going to my fist Bucks game. It’s my understanding that I was still a baby. But what I can remember is that at a very young age, I fell in love with the game of basketball. Get the ball through a hoop: it was a simple yet complex game.
I soaked the game up like a sponge. I wanted to learn about it as much as I could, and my parents obliged. But at that time, money was very tight, and Bulls tickets were an arm and a leg for nosebleed seats. Luckily, Milwaukee afforded a much cheaper opportunity.
Roughly once a year – sometimes twice if it was a good year – we’d make our trips up there. I remember my first jersey was a purple Todd Day jersey that I wore each time with such pride. There was the time that we went with my dad’s co-worker, who had seats right behind the basket. There was another time we sat on the upper level, and two random people we chatted up had a pair of extra tickets and offered us to move to the lower level. It seemed like every trip we made up there as a youngin’ got better and better.
The height of the excitement game right at the turn of the century with a Big Three of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Casell. The team would eventually go on to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals (with controversy) to the Philadelphia 76ers. But you had better believe not a day went by that year that I wasn’t consumed with the team. May I remind you that this was in the era of dial-up internet so there was no streaming or Gametracker. It got to the point that I would turn on ESPN and just stare at the bottom line waiting for the score to flash by. Most days, the rather poor radio in my room would pick up 620 WTMJ and I could listen to Ted Davis announce the games. I loved it.
Milwaukee started to become progressively worse. First, Ray Allen was traded away midway through the 2003 season. Then that following offseason, Cassell and Robinson were also dealt. Gary Payton left as a free agent and the team only had budding star Michael Redd to rely on.
He was enough for me and my dad to keep going to games. A couple years later, my dad requested the game that we go to. He wanted to see Phoenix and Steve Nash play live. OK, I can’t say no to that.
Nash didn’t disappoint, either. He had 23 points and seven assists that night. But I won’t be forgetting what else happened that night. My Bucks absolutely rolled past one of the NBA’s best teams using a barrage of 3’s. Redd was 6-for-11 from distance, Charlie Bell was 5-of-8. But in the 46-point third quarter, the show belonged to Toni Kukoc. The Croation Sensation was absolute money and was hitting shots he had absolutely no business hitting. It was a stellar night neither I nor my dad have since forgotten.
Unfortunately through high school and college, the number of games quickly dropped. And since moving down to Florida, I haven’t been to the Bradley Center. I watch as many games as I can but it’s just not the same as being there with my dad.
* * *
Not too long after I saw the Tweet of the Bucks sale, somebody else mentioned that a condition of the sale was that the team would stay in Milwaukee. Yeah right, I thought.
Then shortly into the press conference that introduced Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, I saw the news that absolutely thrilled me. Not only would these two investment bankers invest $100 million into a new arena, Kohl was going to do the same. Yep, $200 million towards a new arena – nearly half the expected price for a new home. My Bucks would not leave Milwaukee anytime soon.
I can’t wait until the new arena is built – I only hope it has the beautiful Robert Indiana-inspired court at the BMOHBC now. Whatever it takes, I’ll find a way to go to a game there that first year. And of course, I’m going to take my dad and buy him a beer, hopefully with another memory to make.
I only hope that one day, and I’m positive I will, to take my own kids there and have them experience the same magic I was able to.
Today, I present to you this video without comment. Happy Opening Day.
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