Milwaukee Bucks' fans celebrate NBA championship with parade

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo holds up the NBA Championship trophy during a parade and celebration for the basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo holds up the NBA Championship trophy during a parade and celebration for the basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker drinks Champagne as he holds the NBA Championship Trophy during a parade celebrating the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker drinks Champagne as he holds the NBA Championship Trophy during a parade celebrating the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez hugs the NBA Championship trophy during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez hugs the NBA Championship trophy during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker yells during a parade for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker yells during a parade for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger and their son Liam ride on a bus during a parade for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger and their son Liam ride on a bus during a parade for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Thanasis Antetokounmpo yells to the crowd during a parade celebrating the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Thanasis Antetokounmpo yells to the crowd during a parade celebrating the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers takes part in a parade during a celebration for the NBA Championship Milwaukee Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers takes part in a parade during a celebration for the NBA Championship Milwaukee Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker holds a bottle of champagne during a parade and celebration for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker holds a bottle of champagne during a parade and celebration for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger and their son Liam ride on a bus during a parade for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger and their son Liam ride on a bus during a parade for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers takes part in parade for the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers takes part in parade for the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker drinks Champagne during a parade celebrating the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker drinks Champagne during a parade celebrating the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Kirk Carley, of Milwaukee, right, holds up a deer statue during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Kirk Carley, of Milwaukee, right, holds up a deer statue during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Fans scream for players on buses during a parade and celebration for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Fans scream for players on buses during a parade and celebration for the NBA Championship Bucks basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • A fan cheers during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    A fan cheers during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Fans cheer before a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Fans cheer before a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • A fan holds up a towel during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    A fan holds up a towel during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • A fan holds up a sign before a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. The Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns 105-98 in Game 6 on Tuesday.

    A fan holds up a sign before a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. The Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns 105-98 in Game 6 on Tuesday. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, front right, holds up the NBA Championship Trophy as his mother, Veronica Antetokounmpo, left, takes a photo during a parade for the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, front right, holds up the NBA Championship Trophy as his mother, Veronica Antetokounmpo, left, takes a photo during a parade for the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, third from left, gestures during a parade for the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, third from left, gestures during a parade for the basketball team's NBA Championship win, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Bobby Portis holds up a belt during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Bobby Portis holds up a belt during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker dances as confetti falls during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker dances as confetti falls during a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship basketball team Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Milwaukee. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/22/2021 5:51 PM

MILWAUKEE -- Thousands of fans lined downtown Milwaukee streets on Thursday to catch a glimpse of their beloved Bucks in a parade to celebrate the city's first NBA championship in half a century.

Six police officers on horseback clopped past cheering fans at the head of a procession that included a hook-and-ladder fire truck, occasionally blaring its horn, and open-air buses and flatbed trucks carrying Bucks stars including Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, as well as the trophy they captured Tuesday night with a Game 6 victory over Phoenix.

 

Fans could be heard chanting, 'Bucks in 6," an odd but popular rallying cry with roots in a former Bucks player's fruitless prediction in 2013 that the team would take down the playoffs' top seed at the time.

Antetokounmpo held his son, 1-year-old Liam, atop a bus as fans along the route chanted 'MVP!' Later, he shot a basketball into the crowd.

'Milwaukee, we did it baby! We did it!' Antetokounmpo said to a cheering crowd in the Deer District, the area outside the Bucks' Fiserv Forum. 'This is our city, this is our city, man, we did it! Unbelievable.'

Neil and Rachana Bhatia, both 34 and from suburban Waukesha, brought 1-month-old son Zain to the Deer District, saying they wanted to give Zain an early taste of being a Bucks fan.

Neil Bhatia called winning the title 'surreal.'

' It unifies the city and puts the city on a global stage. It's great for the city and the state. It's just bringing everybody together to celebrate something that hasn't happened in 50 years,' he said.

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'The city has had its struggles. What I know is that it's been a city that's coming together,' said longtime Bucks fan Dameon Ellzey, 45, a Milwaukee native who lives near the arena and was stationed there to see the parade.

'In my neighborhood, you could hear everybody on their porches screaming,' Ellzey said. 'Black, white, Asian. In a city like Milwaukee, that's big.'

Milwaukee has long ranked among the most segregated cities in America. Team President Peter Feigin called it 'the most segregated, racist place' he'd ever experienced, remarks he later softened. As the Bucks drove toward a championship this year, some people were cheered by the diversity of the massive crowds that gathered in the Deer District to watch the Bucks on big TV screens.

The team's ascendance has invigorated a Midwestern city far from the league's more cosmopolitan venues like Los Angeles, Boston or Miami - cities that have traditionally found it easier to attract the game's top players. One reason fans have embraced Antetokounmpo is his loyalty to the team that drafted him eight years ago when he was just 18.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He recognizes the city and its quality and he resonates with it," Timothy Seymour, 20, said of Antetokounmpo. 'He really reflects our work ethic. He works hard. And he reflects how we're only going to get better.'

Police estimated 100,000 people jammed the Deer District for Tuesday night's Game 6. Though the coronavirus pandemic has lessened compared to a year ago, the level of cases in both Wisconsin and Milwaukee County still is rated by the state as high, with daily new cases in the county roughly tripling over the past two weeks to 80 per day.

City health officials noted Thursday that announcements of the parade had urged that unvaccinated people wear masks. Few were visible among fans on the parade route or later outside the arena. The city health department said their contact tracing team would closely monitor the event.

Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the state Department of Health Services, predicted the two large gatherings would lead to more COVID-19 cases.

'We are concerned,' she said. 'We know people wanted to be jubilant and celebrate. But we know, half the state is fully vaccinated and half the state is not and I assume the same is true for people in the Deer District and the arena. And I didn't see half the crowd masked.'

___

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed from Madison, Wisconsin.

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