The Milwaukee Bucks pumped out the best record in the NBA this season, sporting a 60-22 mark to earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They are making quick work of the Detroit Pistons in the 1st Round, heading into Saturday’s Game 3 up 2-0 in the series and leading by 13 at halftime.
It’s been a long time since the city of Milwaukee has had a team of this caliber. The last time the franchise even advanced in a playoff series was 2001, when head coach George Karl led the Bucks to Game 7 in the conference finals before bowing out to Allen Iverson and the 76ers.
In fact, you have to go back to the franchise’s 3rd year to find its only championship team. The 1970-71 Bucks, led by Hall-of-Famers Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson, swept the Baltimore Bullets in 4 games to take home the title.
Let’s take a look at that team.
1971 NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks
Head coach Larry Costello led the team to a 66-16 regular-season record, as they played in the old Milwaukee Arena. That’s now the location of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers basketball team’s home games.
Prior to the 1970-71 season, the old Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) traded Robertson to Milwaukee for Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk. NBA.com’s profile of Robertson talks about what was then seen as a stunning move.
Theories attempting to explain the trade abounded. Many observers believed it was Cousy’s jealousy of Robertson that led to the trade. The Big O had just broken many of Cousy’s records and Cincinnati was suddenly too small for the both of them. “Whatever his reasons were,” Robertson later said, “I think he was wrong and I’ll never forget it.”
Robertson was 3rd in the league with 8.3 assists per game.
He was joined by then-2nd-year center Lew Alcindor, who obviously is now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Alcindor led the league in scoring at 31.7 points per game, ranked second in field goal percentage at .577 and fourth in rebounding at 16.0 rebounds per contest.
Abdul-Jabbar received a raucous standing ovation when he arrived at Game One of the 1st round series this season versus the Pistons. He also hoisted the 1971 championship trophy to even bigger applause.
The Bucks were part of the Western Conference at the time, and they rampaged through their playoff competition, losing only twice in 16 postseason games. They won the conference semifinals 4-1 over the San Francisco Warriors (now Golden State) and the finals 4-1 over Elgin Baylor and the Lakers.
All but 1 of the wins over the Bullets were by double-digits.
The franchise would make the NBA Finals one other time 3 years later, losing to the Celtics in 7 games.
Milwaukee faithful are hopeful that a new successful chapter is being written for the 2019 season, a full 48 years after a young franchise dominated the NBA.