Milwaukee's magical NBA championship something to celebrate

  • Fans cheer before a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship Thursday in Milwaukee.

    Fans cheer before a parade celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Championship Thursday in Milwaukee. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Updated 7/24/2021 3:53 PM

By all accounts, local and otherwise, we have just witnessed the "greatest moment in Milwaukee sports history." Lucky us. Luckier them.

This is a boast best not shouted too loudly. There are places -- not lately Chicago -- where winning an NBA championship means ordering another banner for the rafters.


Still, witnessing history -- sports or real -- must not be taken lightly. Pride precedes disappointment, and best hold onto it as long as possible. Right, Cubs fans?

As Rick tells Ilsa, "we'll always have Paris," and Milwaukee will always have the magic of 2021, a happy thought among so many wretched ones. Happy to share, happy to be shared.

A grateful society says thanks. We needed that.

Winning a championship after 50 years had to be a feel-good accomplishment, as it would have been had Phoenix won, finally. The big picture here is Milwaukee's winning broke the bullies that have been ganging up together, usually around LeBron James, to dominate basketball. It undid the fiction that basketball needs glitz and glamour and celebrities in the front row.

The Milwaukee crowd that gathered outdoors to share anticipation could have been stopping after work. Not a limousine in sight. They cheered a building where glory lived and it was particularly touching in this age of Zoom, no pun intended. The same was true in Phoenix (or The Valley, if it insists). Days later the winners gathered again for the obligatory parade and pinch fest. Yep. Not a dream.

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A small-town feeling is not always a part of these things but it is always welcome and always more touching (again, no pun intended) when it is.

Not that sports -- basketball in particular -- will go back to building instead of buying, but Milwaukee's example is there, reminiscent of the Bulls knowing Michael Jordan was the fixture and what was needed were complimentary parts.

Carpetbagger basketball has won in Miami, in Los Angeles, in Cleveland, in San Francisco and may yet win in Brooklyn, might have already without injuries.

To have reached this point in this column without having mentioned Giannis Antetokounmpo is forgivable, I hope, because, honestly, even as a two-time MVP with a name begging for one of those easily recognizable shortcuts, he had been somehow overlooked. "The Greek Freak" seems a lazy label, though Antetokounmpo is apparently fine with it. For our purposes here, let's go with first names, like Kobe and Shaq and LeBron.

Initials? GA doesn't seem to fit as it did MJ or AI (that would be Allen Iverson, the most exciting and most selfish player I ever saw). Sobriquets? Magic and Dr. J (Dr. G?) and Stilt are already taken, so Giannis it is, better than Freak in any case.


Still, my delay in getting around to him is typical of the lagging attention Giannis, and the Bucks for that matter, received as they tiptoed to "the greatest moment in Milwaukee sports history."

Oh, basketball addicts knew of Giannis, and Milwaukee embraced him, but out here in the wilderness, we had other things on our minds. We were not looking for the next LeBron until LeBron let us know we could. And now we can.

There may never have been anyone as big and versatile and vital as Giannis was in creating "the greatest moment, etc." The rush to make Giannis more than he is rivals the same push for LeBron, though LeBron's came sooner and was more deserved.

We haven't yet settled the MJ vs. LeBron question, never mind throwing the newly minted Giannis into the debate. The Greatest of All Time (GOAT) usually waits until the GOAT is selling his memoirs.

But there is no doubt Giannis was Greatest of One Night, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, his 50 points and dominance a memory not only for Milwaukee but for the rest of us as well.

So, to whom to compare him? Tim Duncan comes to mind, another great player of grace and utility, who was locally loved but never nationally revered. Kevin Garnett, heretofore the model of agile versatility, was never the brute Giannis can be driving to the basket.

Maybe best to think of him this way. Think of Michael Jordan five inches taller without a jump shot.

No, I will not dispute that it was "the greatest moment in Milwaukee sports," but neither will I adjust my opinion that Milwaukee is still a nice rest stop on the way to Green Bay.

More to come. Probably.

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