When the Bucks announced last month that, in celebration of the team’s 50th anniversary, they would play a game at the MECCA this season, it got us to thinking about arenas and history – especially as the franchise’s future venue is quickly being built just down the street from its previous two buildings. Who were the best players from the old MECCA years? What about those from the more recent Bradley Center era?
The MECCA hosted some of the best basketball Milwaukee’s ever seen – from the 1971 NBA Championship to the stretch of seven straight division titles in the '80s – during its time as the Bucks’ home court (1968-88). Since the team’s move to the Bradley Center in 1988, there’s been significantly less success – though the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals team had plenty of individual talent, and the current squad has shown the league its huge potential.
When Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the Bucks move into their new arena – scheduled to be completed in time for the start of the 2018 season – they’ll undoubtedly make their mark on and leave plenty of memories at the yet-unnamed building.
Until then, to commemorate the great players who hooped at the MECCA, as well as those that balled at the BC, we picked completely subjective, open-to-disagreement but nonetheless-authoritative All-Arena teams for both venues. (Note: The selection process was so difficult that we had to pick second teams; also, we used the current All-NBA format of choosing two guards, two forwards and a center, then we added a sixth man and a coach for each team.)
On Wednesday, we published our picks for Milwaukee’s All-MECCA teams, and today we present the Bucks’ All-Bradley Center teams:
Milwaukee Bucks’ All-Bradley Center First Team
Guard: Ray Allen (1996-2003) – A two-time All-Star in Milwaukee, Allen in 2001 was an All-NBA Third Teamer and part of the Big Three that the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals. He ranks sixth all-time in points per game average (19.6) and minutes (36.3), and is among the franchise's top 10 in total scoring, games played, minutes, steals, field-goal, 3-point and free-throw shooting. Adored in the community, Allen remains one of the most popular players among fans, and hopefully he'll make a celebratory return to the BC this season while the Bucks are still there.
Guard: Michael Redd (2000-11) – One of the best shooters the Bucks have ever had, Redd – a second-round draft pick – ranks fourth in franchise history in scoring (11,554) and fifth in points per game average (20.0), despite having played on some of Milwaukee’s lousiest teams. The lefty is in the Bucks' top three in 3-pointers made, 3-pointers attempted, free throws made and free throws attempted; in 2004, he was an All-Star and All-NBA Third Teamer. Had knee injuries not derailed his career, he could have been one of the organization's greatest players.
Forward: Glenn Robinson (1994-2002) – The Big Dog is the Bucks’ second-leading scorer all-time in both total points (12,010) and per-game average (21.1). The former No. 1 overall draft pick signed a rookie-record 10-year, $68 million deal in 1994, and went on to be a two-time All-Star in Milwaukee. One of the most gifted offensive players that ever suited up for the Bucks, Robinson ranks among their top five in nearly every shooting category and was an underrated rebounder. Fun fact: He has 300 more turnovers than the next-highest person on the list.
Forward: Vin Baker (1993-97) – The physically dominant power forward spent five very extremely productive seasons with the Bucks, before being traded to Seattle and enduring personal problems. In Milwaukee, Baker made three All-Star teams, was named to the All-NBA Second Team and averaged 18.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He ranks second in team history in minutes per game (38.3) and third in rebounding average (9.5). From 1994-97, Baker and Robinson formed one of the league’s most unstoppable frontcourts.
Center: Andrew Bogut (2005-12) – The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, Bogut’s career in Milwaukee was promise-filled, occasionally productive and injury-plagued. In 408 games over seven seasons, Bogut averaged 12.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, earning All-NBA Third Team honors in 2010, when he put up 15.9, 10.2 and 2.5. When he was healthy, he was one of the most consistent and important centers in the league. In 2012, he fractured his ankle and was traded to Golden State.
Sixth man: Tim Thomas (1999-2004) – If you were a Bucks fan in the early 2000s, you surely remember the "Light it up, Light it up" hype song, as well as Thomas’ pure natural talent. During his time in Milwaukee, Allen once said, "If he wanted to, Tim Thomas could be the best player in the league." Over his six seasons with the Bucks, the hot-shooting sixth man averaged 12.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 27.2 minutes per game, once making eight 3-pointers in a half in 2001.
Coach: George Karl (1998-2003) – Karl’s tenure coincided with the Bucks’ top talent in years and the mercurial coach contributed to the team’s best success in a decade, helping them reach the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. His .542 regular-season winning percentage ranks third among all Bucks head coaches, and Karl is still remembered fondly by many in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Bucks’ All-Bradley Center Second Team
Guards: Sam Cassell (1999-2003) – Acquired in a three-team, eight-player trade in 1999, Cassell completed the Big Three and gave the Bucks a needed playmaker to go with Allen and Robinson. In less than four seasons with the Bucks, Cassell became one of the best pure point guards Milwaukee has ever had; he’s second in franchise history in assists per game (7.2), fifth in total assists (2,269), eighth in scoring average (19.0 points per game) and fourth in player efficiency rating (21.2).
Guard: Brandon Jennings (2009-13) – In just his seventh NBA game, Jennings scored a rookie-record 55 points, which showed his talent and suggested the type of point guard he was. In that first season, he led the Bucks to the No. 6 seed in the East; by 2013, he was an All-Star. But Jennings, who ranks in 3-pointers made and attempted and averaged 17.0 points and 5.7 assists in his four seasons, never wanted to stay in Milwaukee, declining a contract extension and being traded to Detroit for – among others – Khris Middleton.
Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo (2013-present) – An unknown when he was drafted 15th in 2013, Antetokounmpo steadily improved in each of his first four NBA seasons, culminating in a breakout 2017 when he was named an All-Star starter, All-NBA and All-Defensive Second Team and the league’s Most Improved Player. Last year, the Greek Freak led the Bucks in scoring (22.9), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.4), blocks (1.9) and steals (1.6), the first player in NBA history to rank in the top-20 in all those categories. Antetokounmpo just started a contract extension that should keep him in Milwaukee for at least the next four seasons; in 2018, he’ll get to start ruling the new Bucks arena.
Forward: Ersan Ilyasova (2005-07; 2009-15) – We’re not super-happy about this choice, either, but it’s getting to be slim pickings. While never particularly popular or efficient, Ilyasova was fairly productive in Milwaukee, and he averaged 13.1 points and 7.9 rebounds from 2011-13. A capable 3-point shooter and above-average rebounder, Ilyasova’s 4,844 total points are 19th all-time for the Bucks – just behind Bogut and Jennings and (for now) ahead of Antetokounmpo.
Center: Jack Sikma (1986-91) – A seven-time All-Star before he joined the Bucks who only played three years in the Bradley Center (1988-91), Sikma wasn’t as dominant as earlier in his career. Still, he averaged 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists in those three seasons, and ranks 16th overall on Milwaukee’s scoring list (5,253).
Sixth man: Desmond Mason (2003-05, 2007-08) – Still beloved by Bucks fans despite the short tenure, mild statistics and poor teams he was on, Mason came over with Gary Payton in the regrettable Ray Allen trade. The athletic dunker, who said he enjoyed Milwaukee, averaged 14.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in four seasons with the Bucks, and has remained involved with the local community as an artist since retiring.
Coach: Del Harris (1987-91) – After Don Nelson left Milwaukee in 1987, Harris took over as head coach, and a year later the team moved into the Bradley Center. The Bucks made the playoffs in each of Harris’ four campaigns, advancing to the second round in the Bradley Center’s inaugural season, and his .554 winning percentage ranks third in team history.
Those are the Milwaukee Bucks' All-Bradley Center teams. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments, and, in case you missed it, be sure to check out the All-MECCA teams here.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.