By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Dec 23, 2008 at 9:08 AM

Out of all the sports leagues, the NBA has evolved the most over the past 20 years. The numbers don't lie. More than 900 NBA games and 45,000 hours of NBA programming are seen in 215 countries in 41 languages with 188 media partners.

This Christmas the NBA, in its quest to own this holiday much like the NFL owns Thanksgiving, will have five games on television. Even our next president is boosting the sports already top-tier rank and visibility saying last week that he was "... putting together the best basketball-playing cabinet in American history."

The sport that I love is on its way to passing soccer as the world's favorite. It's simple (put a ball in a hoop) and it's global. And, on a local level we have been blessed to have professional basketball in Milwaukee for more than 40 years.

The team, though, has struggled on many levels since former head coach George Karl was sent packing. In 2001, the Bucks won 52 games and the Central Division crown. They, of course, lost to the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Since then, if you're not a passionate basketball fan, the team hasn't done much for you (other than hire and fire coaches and GMs) to keep itself top-of-mind. Winning matters, and the Bucks haven't done much of it in the past six seasons.

But, Milwaukee loves a winner, as all great sports town do. We embraced the Brewers in their drive back to the postseason and now it's time to show the Bucks the love (don't forget the college teams, Wave and Admirals too).

Times have changed for our hometown NBA team and the Milwaukee Bucks have a window of opportunity to regain their prominence on the Wisconsin sports radar. Therefore, they need us now more than ever.

CCs gone, Brett's long gone, but the Bucks are here and at home much more often than their grueling November and December schedule (18 of the first 28 games have been on the road). On opening night in Oklahoma, the Bucks spoiled the Thunder's home debut winning 98-87.

I couldn't help but marvel at the buzz and passion of the fans at Oklahoma City's Ford Center. The city was (and still is despite a dismal season) jazzed to have a pro team. They are thankful, appreciative and hopeful for a bright future. It reminded me of 1991 at the Bradley Center.

We're hopeful here in Milwaukee, and now it's time for the Bucks to deliver. The team is playing hard and head coach Scott Skiles seems to have an engaged group that's battling, hustling and believing.

As a team, the Bucks are -- on average -- out-rebounding opponents, holding their own on shooting percentage and, unlike last year, not getting blown out of games when they fall behind. The Bucks feature, according to Davis Sports, two of the NBA's top 25 players under the age of 25, Andrew Bogut and Ramon Sessions. Personally, I think Charlie Villanueva (age 24) could also be on this list. But, there's no arguing that Sessions and Bogut have solid careers ahead of them.

Last season, Sessions showed he could distribute the ball and this year he's averaging nearly 13 points and 5.4 assists a night. Bogut is coming into his own with a rebounding average of 10.8 and, despite injuries, a scoring knack of about 12 per game. Add the stars and scoring of Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva and the Bucks have a strong group.

Dig deeper into the stats and you'll find that Charlie V is averaging a very solid 27.6 points per 48 minutes of play, while Redd and Jefferson are just behind at 27.3 and 23.9 respectively. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's early season success is wavering a bit, but he's still a tenacious defender and seems to be raising the defensive bar for the entire team.

As a team, this Bucks group is gelling. Basically, in the Eastern conference there's Boston, Cleveland, Orlando and every one else. You can argue that Atlanta and Detroit are top tier too, but five play off spots (4-8) are totally up for grabs and the Bucks are right in the hunt.

Meanwhile in the NBA, in case you haven't noticed, the Celtics are good, very good. Winners of 18 straight (as of Dec. 22), the Celtics play as a team. So, go see them when they come to play the Bucks on March 15. Only three other teams have started 23-2 and each of them (Bulls (1995-96), Knicks (1969-70) and 76ers 1966-67) went on to win the NBA Championship.

Bucks games are fun and ticket deals are plentiful. In January, it's easy to follow the team since they play every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Even if you're not a big hoops fan you can't argue with the Bucks' community support and programs. These are reason enough to support the hometown team.

I do have some suggestions for the club, including updating their music ("Mony, Mony" should never be played in public again, much less "The Banana Boat Song") but these are topics for future blogs.

My call to you now, Milwaukee, is to tune in and show up to support the team. It's time to back the Milwaukee Bucks.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.