It’s pretty clear from all kinds of recent developments that the Milwaukee Bucks are on a path to honor their past while embracing their present and future.
The latest nod to history was the retirement of Bob Dandridge’s number.
Now it’s time to pay attention to who's next?
But before we get to the candidates, let’s get a couple of things out of the way first. We need some guidelines and we need to agree on a philosophy.
There are a bunch of great players who have spent some time with the Bucks – Moses Malone, Alex English, Dave Cowens, Jack Sikma, Gary Payton – but you don’t think of them as Bucks, so they’re out.
Ray Allen is a Hall of Fame player and is among the leaders in a lot of Bucks’ offensive categories, but I wonder if his primary recognition is as a Buck. The same could be said, I guess, of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he is a one of a kind induction. If he was in a rental car that he picked up at my airport, I’d claim him as one of my own.
Bob Lanier played most of his career with Detroit, but his number hangs in our arena.
What this proves is that this whole retiring a number thing isn’t an exact science. It’s a lot like shooting free throws – it’s more about a sense of feel.
So, let’s take a look at the favorites in the field.
Johnson was the third overall pick in 1977, a silken forward out of the John Wooden basketball factory at UCLA. He was a great player on some of the most exciting teams the Bucks ever had. He ranks ninth in games played and seventh in minutes. He’s fourth in field goals and first in offensive rebounds. Johnson also has a certain elan about him and would be a very popular pick.
A 6-foot, 5-inch defensive terror who combined with Sidney Moncrief to give the Bucks just about the best defensive guard tandems there ever was. Pressey was the guy who started to prove just how innovative a coach Don Nelson was. Nelson wanted to get Pressey on the floor but wasn’t sure how to do it. He was too big to play guard and too small to play forward. So Nelson invented the position of "point forward" and Pressey found a home in Milwaukee.
Two modern players deserve consideration as well. They are:
The second round pick out of Ohio State became one of the best shooters in the game, an All-Star and Olympian. Before knee injuries slowed his career, Redd averaged 23.5 points per game and shot nearly 37 percent from beyond the 3-point line from 2004-09.
The "Big Dog" was the first overall pick and, along with Allen and Sam Cassell, formed the "Big Three" around whom the Bucks revolved and reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. In eight years in Milwaukee, Robinson averaged 21.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Those players are worth consideration, but I think the Bucks could get some real attention if they decided to honor one of the following three individuals who have made remarkable impacts.
Embry became the first black general manager in the NBA when he ran the Bucks. He was claimed by the Bucks in the expansion draft and engineered the trade that brought Oscar Robertson to Milwaukee. That’s akin to Ron Wolf signing Reggie White. Embry was a vivid presence, always watching from an aisle in the old Milwaukee Arena. His trademark was a rolled up program that he worried in his massive hands while he watched the game. Embry had a massive influence on the Bucks and the entire league and deserves to be honored.
"Nellie" started his career in 1976 with the Bucks and finished as the all-time winningest coach in league history. He was colorful and flamboyant but in a truly down-home Milwaukee way. He was an inventive and successful coach but more than that he was the face of a franchise. He rode a tractor around the state, sponsored pig races and wore fish ties. He was truly one of a kind.
And finally ...
Davis was a seventh round draft pick in 1972 and is notable because he embodied what I think the Bucks would like to say about all their players. They were hard working, brave and untiring in their pursuit of excellence. Davis never made any all-anything team but he never met an opponent he wouldn’t set a pick on, he never saw a ball he wouldn’t dive on the floor after and he never got a call from a coach to step up in a crucial moment.
Honoring Davis would be an honor to all the Bucks’ players who have toiled over the years to try and bring this city a winner.
So there you have it. Three retirements. One jersey, one rolled up program and one fish tie.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.