The Milwaukee Bucks
are like.........................Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (PBR).
Just like PBR, the Milwaukee Bucks are cool again. They have Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, and Jabari Parker, who will make multiple All Star Games one day. The Bucks have athletic players in Larry Sanders, Khris Middleton, and John Henson. They also got an old school Georgian center in Zaza Pachulia. Brandon Knight is an improvement over Brandon Jennings, and is slowly working his way into the Mike Conley-Jeff Teague underrated point guard territory. It is no wonder that Jason Kidd smartly and smarmily engineered his way to coach this team.
Every ten to fifteen years, the Bucks become relevant and cool. I am not old enough to remember the Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul Jabbar championship contender years, but I do remember the Don Nelson led teams in the 1980s. Nellie wore fish ties, and ran a funky offense that was probably not as high octane as his RUN TMC teams, but was an interesting watch nonetheless. The Bucks were led by Sidney Moncrief, a criminally underrated two way guard who averaged over 20 points per game from 1982-83 through 1985-86. A young Craig Hodges was hitting threes, and Paul Pressey started my love for point forwards. Ricky Pierce was the instant offense off the bench. The Bucks also had uncool, but very cool center trio of Jack Sikma, Paul Mokeski, and Randy Breuer. They do not make NBA Players that look like these three anymore. Kankakee, Illinois native Jack Sikma was also the king of mid-range jumpers and a career 85 percent free throw shooter. Even if the Bucks never got past the Celtics in the Eastern Conference, they left their visual and stylistic mark.
In the early Millennium, the Bucks were led by the trio of Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell, and Ray Allen. The bench was made up of Tim Thomas and two refugees from the Chicago Bulls Championship years, Jason Caffey and Scott Williams. As much as I admire Allen Iverson, this was the team that should have faced the Lakers in the 2000-2001 Finals. Now, after years of bad luck and weird management, the Bucks are cool again just like Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (PBR) is somehow, cool.
Growing up in Troy Hudson country, near the Illinois-Kentucky Border, I have always associated PBR with Confederate Flags and people who chase minorities down in their trucks. I never thought PBR would ever become cool. Hell, it was my old neighbor's second favorite beer, when he couldn't get his hands on Old Milwaukee's Best. I was at a bar recently in a trendy West LA spot, and PBR was all the domestic and cheap beer they had. My friend brought beer back and I was like, "Yo, seriously, really." I could have done the old Coors or Budweiser standby, when I cannot get my standard Heineken bottle I nurse for the whole night.
PBR is cool now, even though, I still feel weird calling it "PBR," it will always be "Pabst" to me. PBR became cool in similar ways to the Bucks, they made unique decisions that deviated from the norm. Back in the not very distant past of 2001 (the early 2000's feel a lot closer to me than 2007-2013, I feel like these latter years are two decades ago), Pabst Blue Ribbon's sales dropped to fewer than a million barrels, down 90% from their peak in 1975. By 2009, sales increased 20.3 percent and by 2013, Americans drank more than 90 million gallons of PBR, nearly 200 percent more than they did in 2004. PBR achieved this by making its brand appear indie and cool. They ignored mainstream advertising events like the Super Bowl and sponsored things like Bike Messenger Rodeos and created their Drink and Draw campaigns, which allowed artists to create PBR themed art work. PBR has become so trendy that there is even PBR&B, a category of modern urban R&B music of artists such as The Weeknd, Theophilus London, Janelle Monae, Miguel, and Frank Ocean that are preferred by hipsters. The watery and questionable tasting PBR is uniting hipsters, thrifty boozers, and the working class and all is right with the world.
Just as they will soon be with the Bucks, who made some interesting unique decisions of their own. They drafted a Greek kid of Nigerian descent with a name most people couldn't pronounce who was playing on a second division Greek club team. Now, other teams are trying to find their version of the Greek Freak. The Raptors even drafted the Brazilian Kevin Durant. The Bucks went with the safe, middle of the row choice in Jabari Parker when most people were raving about the potential of Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Parker is a Mormon honor student, definitely not as cool as Joel Embiid's twitter feed. The Bucks' point guard is more famous for getting dunked on than anything he has done in his basketball career. The dunk is still mentioned by every non-Bucks affiliated announcer every time a Brandon Knight sighting happens. All these moves allow the Bucks to carve their own path and become relevant in a unique way.
The Milwaukee Bucks, led by Lew Alcindor, won the NBA Championship in 1970-1971 over the Washington Bullets. The Bucks lost the NBA Finals in seven games in 1973-1974. Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul Jabbar the day after the Bucks won the 1971 Championship, and eventually left the Bucks for the Lakers in 1975. As a Milwaukee Bucks, Kareem appeared in Game of Death. He appeared in Airplane in 1980 as a member of the Lakers; advantage, Bucks.
Between 1982-1983 to 1988-1989, the Bucks lost in the Eastern Conference Finals three times, once to the Philadelphia 76ers and twice to the Boston Celtics. The Bucks also a seven game series in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals to the Celtics in 1986-1987. The Bucks, arguably, were the second best Eastern Conference team for most of the 1980s.
Bucks' Watchability Essay
Two words, Giannis Antetokounmpo. If watching backup point guards occasionally go for 25 points does not make you realize that you never had the ability or talent to play in the NBA, watching Antetokounmpo will. He makes at least two jaw dropping plays a game. In last year's game against the Clippers, he came out of nowhere to block Hedo Turkoglu and then took one step from about ten feet away and dunked nonchalantly on the other end. Watching in person, I noticed how much taller and longer Antetokounmpo was compared to everyone else on the court, and because he is still learning the game, he will also make a few head shaking plays a game.
The rest of the Bucks are not as obvious in their athletic gifts, but are almost as entertaining. If you like pass first point guards, Kendall Marshall is one of the last Mohicans. Khris Middleton is a year or two away from being a solid starting wing. And enjoy the weird center combo of Larry Sanders and Zaza Pachulia. Sanders is an athletic rim protector with bad touch. Pachulia is the opposite, and always ready to take the game back to 1989.
Paul Tee's Prognosis
An Eastern Conference Playoff Team. For us, Western Conference elitist/realist, this does not say much. However, for a team that was worse than the Sixers last year, this is a major accomplishment. Even without Parker and Antetokounmpo, the Bucks may make the Playoffs. The Bucks play a more inspired brand of basketball than Brooklyn, Indiana, and Boston. Miami's guys who have won Championships are probably chalking up this year as a "get dem checks year," especially when Bosh and Wade are out of the lineup. Orlando is in the middle of a long rebuild. The bottom of the East's Playoff Teams are so bad and unpredictable that it would not surprise me to see the Bucks in the seventh or eight spot. In the long term, as long as Antetokounmpo and Parker develop, Larry Sanders stays out of trouble, and Brandon Knight remains steady, the Bucks will eventually reach the fourth to fifth seed slot. After that, it is up to management, who have stated that they are willing to spend to field a contender, to see if this team can be a finals contender in ten years. Once LeBron declines, the Bucks may sneak in and make an NBA Final in my lifetime, who would have thunk that.