*comes over, sits down in backwards chair* So you've decided to become a Milwaukee Bucks fan.
Cool, welcome to the team! Unsurprisingly, for a squad that's mostly muddled around in the meh-to-shrug region of the NBA standings for the past few decades and almost got shipped to Seattle, there's plenty of room on the bandwagon – and we're happy to have you on board. Don't worry: We didn't see those Nets, Lakers, Warriors and Clippers jerseys hiding the back of your closet; we're too body-shakingly excited to feel anything resembling resentment right now, and the only gatekeeping we're interested in near this team right now is the security around Deer District.
In fact, we're in such a good mood that we want to help you become a full-fledged Bucks fan as quickly as possible – and as painlessly as possible, aka without awkwardly outing yourself as a bandwagoner who's barely watched a Bucks game before and says things like, "Khris Middleton is actually the Batman to Giannis' Robin." Nobody wants that. It's sad for us. It's sad for you. It's sad for everyone in the vicinity.
So you know that episode of "The IT Crowd" where Moss discovers a website that gives him baseline soccer phrases to say so he can relate to other guys and pretend he likes and understands the sport?
This is like that!
Indeed, to help with your Bucks fan on-boarding, here's a list of factoids, players and team lore – from the very basic to the deeper cut and the completely random – to help avoid getting heckled by other fans, of either rivals or of the Bucks, who don't believe your commitment. We'll assist you in becoming a real, true, well-versed and whole-hearted Milwaukee Bucks fan ... until the Bucks lose three games in a row next season and you slip that Brooklyn Nets jersey back on. (Listen, no shame; if we had any care for our mental or physical wellbeing, we'd have jumped ship years ago too.)
So, let's answer some questions:
When was the last time the Bucks were good, and why are you suddenly crying and shaking with rage?
(*takes deep, calming breath*) So, beyond the Giannis era, the last time the Milwaukee Bucks were title-worthy was in the early 2000s. Led by Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson and Ray Allen (yes, before the Celtics and Heat, he was ours first), the Bucks galloped their way to the second seed in the Eastern Conference and a place in the Eastern Conference Finals against Allen Iverson and the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers – but most of all, the refs.
Yes, every team's fans believe the officiating is rigged against their club – but even to objective outside observers, the Sixers-Bucks ECF has the nasty stench of intervention, with Iverson and company claiming a laughable free-throw advantage and key Milwaukee big man Scott Williams getting suspended from Game 7. The wounds from that series have never quite healed for Bucks fans – especially since things collapsed pretty quickly afterward. After the offseason acquisition of Anthony Mason never gelled with the rest of the team the following year, divisive coach George Karl helped implode the Bucks, sending Robinson to Atlanta and Allen to Seattle with the rest of the squad heading elsewhere soon after. It's been mostly sadness and fist-shaking ever since.
OK, sorry to bring that up. Happier topic: When was the Bucks' last championship?
Yes, much happier. So the last time the Bucks won the NBA Finals was the last time Milwaukee won a title – period. It was 50 years ago, as the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-led Bucks won the 1971 Finals in a four-game sweep over the Baltimore Bullets. Strangely enough, the NBA was so low on the sports totem pole – and off Milwaukee's radar – that the champions didn't get a victory parade and don't even have a trophy as evidence. Milwaukee would return once more to the Finals a few years later in 1974 but would come up just one game short against the Boston Celtics.
And since then: pain, for the Bucks and for Milwaukee as a whole. (This is why we're not defensive about fans jumping on the bandwagon: We know the ride you're REALLY signing up for.) The Bucks haven't been to the Finals since, and the closest the entire city got to a championship over the decades was the Brewers losing in the 1982 World Series. Thankfully, we have the Green Bay Packers and their two recent Super Bowls as comfort – but while we certainly celebrate those triumphs, Milwaukee doesn't get a Packers victory parade down its streets.
This Bucks win, though, would be something completely different.
Hell yeah, Giannis.
First things first: YAH-nis. We're happy to bring in new fans, but if you mispronounce his name – or make a tired joke about how he's got a lot of letters in his name – just turn in your jersey and prepare to be swiftly excommunicated from Deer District.
Even after winning MVP trophies already, these NBA Finals have been a pretty spectacular coming-out party for Giannis, wowwing fans and doubters alike between the 40-point games, mesmerizing key plays and delightful media quotes philosophizing about life and needing "a tinkle." But while this may seem like peak Giannis, it's really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to delightful Greek Freak moments. He's been this enchanting ever since his arrival in Milwaukee – from his remarkable origin story to his joyous early excursions into the world of American junk food and tales like needing an Uber to get to a game his rookie season. And that's not even including his increasingly incredible on-court play, slapping blocks around and dunking upon unfortunate victims and mean-mugging his way into our hearts.
Everyone's making references to "tinkling" and The Block right now – and deservedly so. But if you want to sound like a long-time Bucks fan, mention how much Giannis loved "smoothies" back in his earliest Milwaukee days and harken back to that glorious time he body-checked Mike Dunleavy into the second row.
What's the deal with "Bucks in six"?
YOU MEAN THE PROPHECY!?
But actually, part joke and part rallying cry, "Bucks in six" originated during the Brandon Jennings years – the 2013 playoffs, to be specific. Making their first postseason visit since 2010 – a dubious return considering Milwaukee was six games under .500 – the Bucks star point guard made the bold claim that not only would the lone losing team in the playoffs be competitive against the top-seeded, defending-champion Miami Heat, but they would beat the LeBron-Wade-Bosh era monolith in six games.
Spoiler alert: They didn't.
The Bucks wouldn't win a single game. They wouldn't even net a final score within 10 of the Heat, who would easily forget this centimeter-tall speedbump on the way to win their second straight title. But somehow this utterly failure became a Bucks favorite, with fans chanting "Bucks in six" at any given moment. It started as ironic – but with the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, it became reality. And depending on how Tuesday night goes, it could become prophecy – complete with the messenger hopefully courtside in Milwaukee.
If they win the Finals in six, there's a non-zero percent chance that Jennings immediately ascends into heaven on a beam of blinding white light.
Where'd "Fear the Deer" come from?
This one's a lot simpler: SportsCenter. While the phrase may have bounced around amongst scattered fans, the phrase hit the Milwaukee mainstream thanks to anchor John Anderson during the 2010 season, the Bucks' first postseason visit in years and their highest seeding (a whole sixth place!) since 2004. The playoff run ended – as most do for the Bucks, historically – in disappointment, but the phrase endured to this very day. Click here to read Anderson's recollection of the moment.
Has Deer District always been like this?
HA! You think you're amazed by the ecstatic sights of Deer District this postseason? Less than five years ago, the place that is now a global destination and inspirational image of communal joy was a parking structure, some abandoned buildings and gravel.
The full history of the Bucks can be found here – but basically, with a middling team and a poorly-aged arena (the Bradley Center), there was no guarantee there would be a Deer District, much less a Fiserv Forum or even a Milwaukee Bucks at all. Then Giannis showed up, captivated fans and – no hyperbole – saved the team from oblivion. Now, the old Bradley Center site and the inactive surrounding area will host just one segment of an estimated 65,000-person viewing party that I shall now call Buckschella.
Why the crazed Bobby Portis love?
Better question: Why NOT the crazed Bobby Portis love?! But actually, there's no one moment when Portis became a fan favorite. Some hardcore Bucks fans may still have a fondness for him back when he was a potential Milwaukee target in the 2015 NBA Draft – the Bucks ended up going with Rashad Vaughn, last seen playing in Montenegro, while Portis would go several picks late to Chicago – but with his "rise and grind" blue collar hustle, electric energy off the bench and timely buckets, Portis just found his way into Bucks' fans hearts and into some of their loudest chants.
Oh, and also this quote:
One of the wildest pre-game routines you will ever hear comes by Bobby Portis ðÂÂâÂ£
"I sit in the locker room and I envision that the other player on the team slapped my mom. That's why I get mad, and now I've gotta get you because you slapped my mom." pic.twitter.com/9laB8Cl1C6 — Statline - Basketball & NBA News (@statline_) July 2, 2021
Why do people wear clothes saying "Cream City," and is it something I should be afraid of Googling?
Last season, for the Bucks' City alternate jerseys, the team busted out uniforms proudly calling themselves "Cream City," inspiring awkward giggles across the NBA – and even amongst Milwaukee itself. But get your mind out of the gutter: The nickname is neither a reference not to something on Urban Dictionary, nor even a shoutout to the state's famous dairy industry. It's a callback to the city's foundation, literally: the cream-colored bricks that built many of the Midwest metropolis' early buildings and, in some surviving landmarks historic and hidden, can still be seen today.
Who's Herb Kohl?
A politically polarized state like Wisconsin uniting in agreement on a politician? Seems impossible – but that's what Sen. Herb Kohl did, at least out of office for sure as the former longtime Bucks owner.
It wasn't always this way thanks to his frustrating but understandable habit of assembling adequate basketball teams too bad to be contenders but too good to get high-impact draft picks. Near the end of his tenure, however, Kohl firmly cemented his legacy as a true patron of Milwaukee culture by refusing to hand the team off to new ownership without a guarantee that the Bucks would stay in Milwaukee – a tough sell for a underperforming small-market team with little support. But his dogged determination won out, finding new owners that committed to the city while putting in millions of his own money to jumpstart the funding on Downtown's desperately-needed new arena.
As with Giannis, without Herb Kohl, this current Bucks bandwagon certainly wouldn't exist – because the Bucks almost certainly wouldn't exist.
Who's the happy little deer spinning a basketball? Can I be his friend?
That would be Bango, named after legendary "Voice of the Bucks" Eddie Doucette's signature big-shot radio call. In the team's early days, Bango also had prime logo status, but he was eventually replaced by more aggressive looking deer and relegated to sideline mascot. There, however, he thrived, becoming a favorite mascot across the league with the particular help of his impressive daredevil dunks – even scoring a featured spot on a Hulu show in the process.
What pump-up jams should I be blasting pregame?
As the Atlanta Hawks learned the hard way last round, "Knuck If You Buck" by Crime Mob has made for a solid unofficial tribute. For a true Bucks pump-up jam, though, you should lean on local artists – from Klassik's "Bucks in Six" to "Bobby Portis (Remix)" from Jeez Louise and Eddy J. Lemberger's immediate kitsch classic "Got Bucks Lust."
But if we're being honest, there's one true Bucks anthem:
What's the deal with all the shirt-ripping at the games?
We're processing a lot of emotions right now.
If you're looking for a more sensible – and clothing-budget-friendly – gametime trend to take part in, however, when we're not destroying shirts in the name of Bucks fandom, we're chugging beers. A fitting tradition considering our Brew City moniker, knocking back a beer on the jumbotron became a fan favorite during the 2019 playoffs run as Green Bay Packers guard David Bakhtiari pumped up the crowd by powering down some suds. That moment escalated into regular chug sessions including Aaron Rodgers, Brewers MVP Christian Yelich and, most recently, Bakhtiari's dad. Even kids are getting into the action!
(Don't worry: It was water.)
Safe to say we've come a long way since Squad 6.
Wait, what's Squad 6?
So before we were filling Deer District and shaking the foundation of Fiserv Forum, Bucks games were scantly-attended affairs – so much so that the Bucks basically paid for a fan section. Not literally – but pretty much, as Squad 6 (or, in its later form, Clutch Crew) served as a built-in group of fans who auditioned for free season tickets in a certain section, provided by then-star Andrew Bogut. The section stood all game, started personalized cheers and brought much-needed "student section" energy to some lowly Bucks bouts. Side-eye this "incentivized" or "forced" fandom if you want, but there's no doubting the fan section's loud and proud commitment to some forgettable hoops, as well as their role in building the foundation that thousands upon thousands of rowdy fans are shaking now.
What was the deal with those yellow jerseys from a season or two ago?
And you thought the Cream City uniforms were wild.
Back during the 2018-19, the Bucks introduced these bright alternate City uniforms which almost certainly confused outsiders with its modern art-esque design. Even some Bucks fans had to wonder what this borderline abstract look was. The origin: It's a zoomed-in and amplified piece of the Bucks' once-iconic hardwood court design back from their days at The MECCA – no, not the sports bar now across the plaza from Fiserv Forum, but the now UWM Panther Arena. At first, the bold look had people shaking their heads like it was a Giannis three-point attempt, but fans soon warmed up to the unique, eye-catching duds. Plus, winning makes everything look good.
Who are some good random Bucks players to know?
Need a good random Bucks pull to prove your cred? Here are some guys to remember:
- Michael Redd: The best player on several bad teams in the 2000s, Redd filled up the stat sheet with impressive three-point shooting – made even more impressive by the fact that his shots were flatter than the Bradley Center.
- Larry Sanders: Pardon me – I mean LARRY SANDERS! For a pre-Giannis moment, it seemed like this lanky and skilled center would be the Bucks' new centerpiece. Then he got in a lot of off-court trouble and, after a lot of confusion, left the Bucks and the sport of basketball entirely. He left us with this gift, though.
- Blue Edwards and Brad Lohaus: The original "NBA Jam" is inarguably the best basketball video game ever made – and unfortunately the Bucks are pretty inarguably the worst team on it. Edwards isn't the problem; that'd be Lohaus, who never averaged more than 10 points a game in Milwaukee. Frank Brickowski would've been better – and he has the word "brick" right there in his name!
- Warren Wiegratz: The soundtrack of the Milwaukee Bucks before and after the turn of the millennium, Streetlife with Warren Wiegratz was the in-house jazzy blues band tucked in the courtside corner of the Bradley Center.
- Joe Prunty: After Jason Kidd botched his way out of the Bucks head coach gig, Bucks assistant Joe Prunty took over the disappointing season and got the team into the playoffs, where they were dispatched by the second-seed Boston Celtics – albeit in a respectable seven games. Coach Mike Budenholzer would take over the next season, and Prunty disappeared – until recently when his name came up as one of the inspirations behind a game-winning play for ... the Phoenix Suns.
- Dan Gadzuric: No story here. He was just a guy who played for the Bucks for most of the 2000s and certainly did things!
- Joe Alexander: Internet articles about each NBA team's biggest draft busts often name this former West Virginia standout as the Bucks' biggest flop – quite the statement for a team that also took Yi Jianlian and Kent Benson. Considering he averaged less than five points in his one year on the Bucks, it's not an unearned title. Fun fact, though: The next three picks after Alexander in the 2008 Draft all eventually played in Milwaukee anyways: Jerryd Bayless, D.J. Augustin and ... current starting center Brook Lopez.
There, bandwagoner, you now have enough random Bucks history and factoids to comfortably blend in with the Brew City faithful – hopefully for even more fun seasons to come.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.