Eric Nehm’s first book, 100 Things Bucks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, comes out on October 9. It’s a comprehensive look at the history and legacy of Milwaukee’s hometown team from an experienced local sportswriter. We spoke with Eric to discuss the book, his years writing about the Bucks and his thoughts on the upcoming season.
What interesting new things did you discover about the Bucks while writing?[Writing the book] definitely helped me discover new details about the franchise’s history. The details of the events my dad had already told me about when I was a kid became much more vivid: The importance of a player like Lucius Allen to the Bucks’ early title contenders; the players who represented the Milwaukee Bucks in the arcade classic NBA Jam; the ahead-of-their-time tactics used by Don Nelson; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s warmup jacket in the 1977 All-Star Game.
Do you have a favorite moment in Bucks’ history, and if so, what is it?
I will go with one from when I was alive and one from before I was born. Before I was born: the 1971 NBA Championship. It is the Bucks’ lone NBA Championship, which they won because of the brilliance of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, two of the greatest players in the history of basketball. Since I was alive: the team’s almost-comeback in Game 6 of their first round series against the Toronto Raptors in 2017. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in an arena louder than the Bradley Center as the Bucks made a 32-7 run in the second half to tie the game at 78.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I started by creating a list of players, coaches, GMs, games, and events that might make the book. Then, I read through some team history to fill out the rest of the list before sending it off to a couple veteran journalists, who critiqued the list and gave me some notes on things I missed or things to think [about] as I finalized the list.
Then, with every story, I did a basic Google and YouTube search for background information and video. Then, I’d typically do some newspaper searches for articles written around the time of the event in Milwaukee and a look through the Sports Illustrated vault to see if there would be some national perspective. The book would have been impossible if not for the scribes that came before me.
Finally, any time I could get an in-person interview with someone I tried to take advantage of it and get a firsthand account of an event.
Sleep. I wrote the book during last year’s NBA season, a season in which the Bucks fired their coach and Giannis Antetokounmpo ascended to superstardom. I was not sleeping much.
In picking 100 things for the book, were there any interesting facts you ended up leaving out?
I desperately wanted to write a chapter about Sam Cassell punting a basketball during a 2002 game but struggled to find a great account of it. I also wonder if I’ve included enough stories about Antetokounmpo, but I’d guess when I write the next version of this book, I’ll add a few more stories about him.
What is your favorite sports book of all time?
The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam. It is without a doubt the best basketball book ever written. It’s a wonderful look at the 1979-80 Portland Trail Blazers, which introduces readers to a colorful cast of characters while breaking down a number of the issues of the time. I’ve never seen someone embedded quite as deep into an NBA team’s journey as Halberstam.
Do you have any predictions for the upcoming Bucks season?
I’ll make three predictions: The Bucks will win at least 50 regular season games. The Bucks will win their first playoff series since 2001. Antetokounmpo will finish Top 3 in NBA MVP voting.