How Milwaukee Celebrated The 1971 Bucks' Championship Without A Parade
The 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks were one of the greatest NBA teams of their era.
Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, known then as Lew Alcindor, and Oscar Robertson were the team’s superstar duo. That year they would go on to win the Bucks their first and, currently, only championship title.
On this week’s Bubbler Talk, we’re answering a listener’s question about why the World Champion Bucks never got a parade and how Milwaukee celebrated instead.
Milwaukee sports historian Rick Schabowski remembers the night of the win.
“Here they are playing, 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock in Baltimore, ... it was Baltimore Bullets but then they come back and they win, it’s like midnight. Where you going to have the parade? When you gonna do it? Are the players going to stick around until Monday? ... So they really didn’t have anything planned,” he says.
Schabowski was 19 years old in 1971 and he only missed going to five home games the entire season. His book, From Coin Toss to Championship: 1971 The Year of the Milwaukee Bucks, gives a complete history of the lone Bucks championship season.
“They did arrive at the airport, and this was much publicized. They said, ‘Oh boy, the Bucks will be coming this and this time, and I went down there and it was a good crowd, I mean granted it wasn’t the same as having a motorcade,” he says. “But I was there and boy it was really great. I slapped five with Lucius Allen and I remember that and all the people around there and they came through regular baggage too, which is something you wouldn’t see.
Despite only having three seasons under their belt in Milwaukee, the Bucks drew a crowd of 10,000 fans who greeted them at the airport.
Scotty Godshaw of Milwaukee was determined to see the world champion Bucks return home. The then-teenager asked his dad if he could borrow his car to take down to the airport.
“I was only 17, I didn’t have my own car yet, but I said I’m gonna go to the airport, you know, and the kid up the block, who was the younger brother of my good friend, you know, him and I went,” Godshaw recalls.
He says since he was still in high school, he didn’t hit the bars afterwards but that he headed home with hopes that this wouldn’t be the last title that the Bucks would win.
“It was exciting, you know, winning any championship is exciting, you know, and like I said, you just assume that it would be the first of many,” says Godshaw.
Shooting guard Jon McGlocklin, also known as “The Original Buck” for scoring the first points in Bucks’ history, remembers coming off the plane and being escorted out by police officers.
“It took four police officers to get my wife and I, who’d come there to meet me, into our car, and then it took those police officers some time to get us out of the parking lot because our car was being inundated with people, you know, yelling at me and pounding on the windows and the hood. It was a little frightening but also tremendously exciting that the fans came out,” he says.
McGlocklin says that night the team, along with the owners and some staff, went out to dinner and that was the last time they’d celebrate the win. He says no one on the team knows why there wasn’t a parade.
“There was never an explanation, and, to this day, we don’t know,” he says. “And it really struck me, when in ’82, when the Brewers went to the World Series and lost the World Series to St. Louis and the Brewers had a parade. And that’s when it hit me right in the face that, wait a minute, they came in second and got a parade and we won it and got nothing.”
McGlocklin would play five more seasons with the Bucks and has since worked for 25 years as a part of the Bucks broadcast team. He’s also partnered with former Bucks announcer Eddie Doucette to create the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund.
While the hope now is that the new Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo can bring a second championship to the city and finally lead fans down Wisconsin Avenue, Schabowski says it will never replace the first championship.
“But the ’70-’71 season, that’s the one that we got the ring and we’re proud to have that, and you always remember where you were, that’s one of the events I remember where I was when the Bucks won,” he says.
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