“Sport is friendship; sport is health, sport is education, sport is life, sport brings the world together.” – Juan Antonio Samaranch.
A powerful quote, from a once powerful man of the sports world. Yet for Milwaukee Bucks fans, he forgot to add – “Sport will destroy you emotionally in unimaginable ways”.
I often find myself trying to explain to people what it’s like to be a die hard fan of the Milwaukee Bucks. The anguish, the stress, the pain, the hopelessness, the anger.
Now, I must admit, I’ve only been a fan since the Ray Allen years, the first NBA game I ever watched was a second round playoff match up against the Charlotte Hornets. So, I can hardly claim the pain and suffering many long time Bucks fan can.
It’s been a rocky 15+ years to say the least, filled with low points and crushed expectations. And yet despite this, I may have never experienced a more ‘Bucks’ 48 hours then the one just passed.
My first real experience of pain as a Bucks fan came in February 2003. Milwaukee traded away a 27 year old Ray Allen (and a first round pick!) to the Seattle Supersonics for a 34 year old Gary Payton and Desmond Mason. I hardly need to remind anyone, but Payton only suited up for the Bucks on 28 occasions, Mason 249 across two stints.
He went on to play 11 more seasons, make 7 All-Star appearances, win two NBA Championships and become the greatest ever three point shooter in NBA history.
Next came the electric T.J Ford. Selected 8th overall in the 2003 NBA draft, Bucks fans were excited to see what the guard combination of Ford and Michael Redd could accomplish. The dunamic Ford was averaging 6.5 assists per game during a stellar rookie campaign. In February of that season, Ford landed awkwardly after taking a shot, he lost feeling in his legs. He had suffered a spinal cord contusion, underwent major surgery and despite a miraculous return to the NBA, was never the same.
Speaking of Michael Redd, the lefty scoring machine tried, but could not avoid the Bucks curse. In the midst of his sixth season of averaging 20+ points per game, Redd tore his ACL and MCL, requiring a full knee reconstruction. On return, Redd lasted only 18 games on a minute restriction before destroying the same knee. He was never the same.
The next disaster may just be the most painful in recent memory for Bucks fans. Andrew Bogut, the Bucks number 1 pick in the 2005 draft, was in the middle of a career year in 2009/10. The Bucks were steaming towards the playoffs, winning 25 of their last 36 games on the back of Bogut. He then destroyed his arm in a horrible accident that doesn’t need rehashing. The Bucks season was done. Bogut was never the same. They valiantly battled to game 7 in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks without their leader, but failed to advance. The Bucks finished 46-36 that season, their second best regular season record since 1990-91.
The latest in the never ending run of Milwaukee disasters has been Jabari Parker’s twice torn left ACL.
In a truly Milwaukee Bucks moment, the night Khris Middleton returned from major hamstring surgery in February last season, Jabari went down the second time. Yet again, the Bucks were torn down without having a chance to see their full potential.
Now we arrive at the latest Milwaukee moment. THE absolute most ‘Bucks’ 48 hours of all time.
This season, the torches were out for head coach Jason Kidd. Languishing in the 8th seed despite undeniable top end talent. He was eventually let go and Bucks fans rejoiced!
The next fortnight was bliss, a four game winning streak only topped by the announcement of Parker’s second return. All the Bucks needed to do was get through one game in Minnesota and they were set. Finally the tide was turning, finally Milwaukee are going to get a run of good fortune.
The Bucks were blown out (largely irrelevant), but in a simply devastating moment Reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon tore his quadriceps tendon on a simple fast break dunk attempt. He was carried from the floor and potentially his season was over. To make matters worse, MVP candidate Giannis Antekounmpo was inserted back into the game with 9 minutes left and the Bucks trailing by 23 points. Of course, he turned an ankle and exited the game heavily limping. The night simply could not have gone any worse. The night before a joyous, uplifting, inspiring return, you felt the Bucks had yet again been dealt an almighty blow.
For several hours after the game, I truly racked my brain to try and understand what the Bucks could have possibly done to the sports gods? Why us? Why does this continue to happen? Can we never catch a break?
Inevitably, as a Milwaukee fan, you learn to move on. You simply must. And we did, we had no choice. Jabari was returning.
The night went perfectly, Jabari returned, looking slim and fitter then ever. Scoring 12 points in 14 minutes and setting the Bradley Center alight. As for Giannis, not only did he play, he made a game winning, last second lay-up. The crowd went home buzzing. It was a beautiful thing.
Maybe Samaranch was right, and this is just an education process for Bucks fans.
They say good things come to those who wait. It was never actually mentioned how long the wait would be.
The roller coaster of emotions that we went on as a group of fans in one 48 hour span was so Milwaukee. But this time it had a happy ending. Brogdon thankfully will be back by playoffs, Jason Kidd is still gone, Jabari got through his return unscathed, and we got a game winner from our MVP.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus