The Bucks will host the Celtics on Oct. 26 at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in a special "Return to the MECCA" game to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. The Bucks announced the game, which will tip off at 7 p.m. and be broadcast nationally on TNT, on Tuesday at the Arena – formerly known as the MECCA – and also unveiled the new Bucks’ Classic Edition retro uniform.
Team president Peter Feigin talked about the ownership group’s stated commitment to being "stewards of this team," nurturing its half-century of history and embracing the past while looking forward to the future – especially given Milwaukee’s "incredible offseason." Young forward Jabari Parker, who’s still recovering from knee surgery, said, "as a man of history, I'm proud to be part of this event," even if he won’t be able to play in the game.
Jon McGlocklin, longtime broadcaster and "The Original Buck," remembered making the franchise’s very first basket, playing in the MECCA surrounded by cheering fans and all the success Milwaukee had at the venue. McGlocklin fondly recalled the Bucks’ fiercely competitive rivalry with Boston, especially in the 1980s when both teams were at the top of the Eastern Conference, and then revealed the long-awaited details of the "Return to the MECCA Game."
The #Bucks have announced that their Return to the MECCA game will be against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, October 26 at 7 p.m. on TNT. pic.twitter.com/0yWMWpitG5 — Jimmy Carlton (@jimmycarlton88) August 29, 2017
The Bucks played at the MECCA from their inaugural season in 1968 until 1988, and they faced the Celtics 48 times there during the regular season, going 30-18 in those games. Milwaukee compiled a 582-209 home record in 20 seasons at the approximately 11,000-seat arena, making 16 playoff appearances, winning 12 division championships and capturing two conference titles. In just their third season, the Bucks went 34-2 at the MECCA and won the 1971 NBA Championship. They were truly dominant at the old arena, with some of the franchise's best players appearing there.
"It’s important that we stay connected to the past because we show fans and people looking from the outside in that we have a long history," Parker said after the announcement. "We weren’t always the team that was under .500 and (didn’t) make the playoffs; we were the best in our division for a long time."
The "Return to the MECCA" will be the first time the Bucks host a regular-season home game offsite in Wisconsin since they played three contests in Madison during the 1974-75 campaign. The team has called the BMO Harris Bradley Center home since 1988, and the upcoming 2017-18 season – its 50th, which officially begins in 50 days when Milwaukee plays at Boston on Oct. 18 – will be its last there, before the Bucks next fall move into the new arena currently being built down the street.
The MECCA – which stood for the Milwaukee Exposition, Convention Center and Arena – originally opened in 1950 as the Milwaukee Arena. In 1978, it received a unique, boldly colorful basketball court, painted by renowned artist Robert Indiana; some have speculated the Bucks will try to reuse for the "Return to the MECCA" game, though the team has not confirmed that. In 1995, after the Bucks left, the building was renamed the Wisconsin Center Arena, and from 2000 to 2014 it was known as the U.S. Cellular Arena. Since then, it’s been called the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, and is the full-time home of the UWM men’s basketball team, as well as the Admirals and Wave.
Parker, whose father Sonny played at the MECCA during his six-year NBA career, said it would be special to have a game in the same arena as his dad and called the iconic floor "groovy." He added that "a lot of teams don’t have the luxury of playing in their old gym."
According to the Bucks, the only way to ensure a seat for the "Return to the MECCA" game is through the purchase of a season ticket plan. The team also launched a special 50th Anniversary Superpass, which is a digital ticket pass guaranteeing access to all 2017-18 Bucks regular-season home games, including the historic game against the Celtics.
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.