So as I sat in my recliner last Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but be filled with a feeling of: “Wow… so that just happened … it actually happened … I think…?”
The Milwaukee Bucks. NBA Champions.
Feel free to take a moment to digest that statement.
We saw it, we watched it, it happened.
The Bucks. Celebrating.
Cracking bottles of champagne.
Showing off custom WWE Championship belts with their logo plates on it.
Riding on top of busses through downtown Milwaukee with the Larry O’Brien trophy held high, and thousands of cheering fans in brand new t-shirts and hats surrounding them in the streets.
Every year there’s an NBA champion, and this year, it’s us.
They did it.
Bucks in 6 – to quote Paul Heyman – “wasn’t a prediction, it was a spoiler.”
It’s been the strangest of seasons, but in the end the best player on the planet came through in a monster way in the biggest moment and carried his team, our team, to an NBA championship.
So, why does this feel so mystifying?
Thirty-five years as a Wisconsin sports fan (okay, I’m 40, and I know a lot of people like to claim they were fans from the day they were born. However, realistically, nobody really recalls much of anything before like their fifth birthday, and you know you didn’t choose to be a fan of anything besides Cheerio’s before that, but I digress), and the Bucks have been “that family member” of Wisconsin sports.
If it was the Godfather, they’d be Fredo. The one who’s always got a story that starts with “…well, you see…what happened was …”
You love them, they’re part of the family, but … “oh God… what now?”
It’s a long and storied history of bad trades, bad drafts, bad breaks, bad hires, bad management. And yet, FINALLY, the stars aligned, they didn’t screw it up, and it’s one of those situations where “I saw it, it happened, yet … how?” is really all you can say.
So then we come to the eternal question: what now?
Well, No. 1, savor it folks.
Drink it all in.
Get the t-shirt.
Go to the game where they raise the banner.
Buy the overpriced Championship DVD set.
Just remember, no matter how good you are, championships aren’t guaranteed.
No matter how much better you are “on paper,” that trophy and that banner and those rings don’t just get handed out.
Ask any Bucks fan that was around in 1971. You had two of the best players in the world, the table was set for a dynasty, and then “stuff” happens … and 50 years go by before you’re ever there again.
Heck, we’re to the point now, where “Ask Rodgers” works too (how the heck was that 10 years ago already).
Ask the ’82 Brewers.
And No. 2, hope the recent trend of other city teams being inspired by the success of one team keeps up, and I’m doing another one of these for the Brewers in late October (and with this pitching staff, that ain’t a pipe dream this year. We’ve got the horses; now it’s just gotta happen … and that’s the tricky part).
There’s plenty of other observations, as well:
• This team, my Lord!
It’s been just a heck of a run getting here. But possibly the most frustrating team I’ve ever been a fan of, where when you compare the talent level on the floor to the results produced, and then see how they look some nights, even in playoff games! I mean, I get it, we’re Bucks fans. Could it have gone any other way than the hardest possible? Some nights watching this team, man, I swear they were trying to kill me.
• Jim Paschke got a title.
Congratulations to a guy who’s really been a part of my life since my dad woke me up to watch Juan Nieves throw a no-hitter when I was 6. Paschke has been along for the ride for some of the most truly putrid teams this area has ever seen, and I’m so glad he got to be part of a champion.
Fifty, my God. That was a pantheon level performance. In truth, of all the Finals games I’ve ever watched, Jordan’s “flu game” will forever be “the damndest thing I ever saw” on a basketball court. I’ll fully admit to being a tad biased here, but, this has to be on that level. One of the most overused phrases in sports applies: “I’ll tell my grandkids about seeing it happen.” And then all of those blocks were just in massive spots, and all the intangibles, everything, the total package. What a night, what a series, what a playoffs.
Welcome to the club man. You just moved from great to legend. You are now one of the immortals, one of the Gods in the religion of Wisconsin sports. You’re now on the plateau with the Gunslinger, Starr, Rodgers, Yount, Kareem, Kulwicki, Reggie. By the way, you just did something none of them did, you won a title here, on our soil. And that post-gamer (press conference) might be one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. I just don’t know that there are enough words to describe it.
• Khris Middleton.
Just keep putting it up, man. When he’s cold, he’s death. But keep feeding him, and eventually he gets there. The very definition of the word clutch. His story is almost more amazing than Giannis being the Euro kid with the funny name. Just look at him. A second-rounder, spent time in the G-league, and was a throw-in to make the cap numbers work in the Brandon Jennings trade. And here he is, second-best player on a title team. I’d say that deal worked out.
• Jrue Holiday.
Offensively, that was brutal… again. And yet, we couldn’t have won the thing without you, as the entire playoffs, that was some of the best defense most of us have ever seen at the pro level.
• Coach Bud.
Well, you did it. It doesn’t make sense, it was 1,000 times harder than it should have been, you have confused, confounded, and frustrated the entire state. But, you did it. They can’t take it away, and you can pour liquid nitrogen on his seat going into next year.
• Bobby Portis.
Enjoy the lifetime of free drinks in the city, as you just became a Wisconsin folk hero. And ask Desmond Howard, that ain’t a bad spot to be in.
• Herb Kohl.
I am so glad he got to live to see a championship parade (and be a part of it), because without him, literally none of this happens as this franchise is in St. Louis or Nashville or somewhere else by now, twice over! Saved ‘em on his way in, and saved ‘em on his way out. I can’t think of another owner of a pro sports team who’s gone to those lengths.
So again, the Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Champions.
What an age to be alive friends. What an age to be alive.
Otto works 12-5 p.m. on Sheboygan’s Rock Station, 106.5 The Buzz