For the First Time in History, a Milwaukee Sports Team Wins a Championship at Home

Just one more way the Milwaukee Bucks made history last night by becoming NBA champions.

The Milwaukee Bucks are champions of the NBA.

That alone is among the rarest of feats when it comes to Milwaukee’s professional basketball franchise, which entered the league in 1968.

Until Tuesday night, the Bucks had exactly one NBA title to their name, which came in 1971.

When it comes to rarities, the Bucks winning a title at their house, the Fiserv Forum, in front of their increasingly rabid fan base is also at the top of the list.

In fact, no major Milwaukee professional sports franchise had ever won a championship at home until the Bucks took down the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum to capture the NBA crown four games to two.

 

 

The Bucks 1971 squad, led by Hall of Famers Lew Alcindor (who would later take the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson, won games one and three of the championship series at the Milwaukee Arena while taking games two and four at the Baltimore Civic Center to complete a sweep of the Bullets.

The Milwaukee Braves captured the city’s only Major League Baseball title when they knocked off the New York Yankees 5-0 in Game 7 of the 1957 World Series at Yankee Stadium.

The Milwaukee Brewers have never won a World Series title, coming closest in 1982 when they bowed to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

For this year’s Bucks team, storming back to win the championship series after dropping the first two games also proved to be out of the ordinary. The Bucks became just the third team to accomplish the feat, joining the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and the 2006 Miami Heat.

Seemingly unprecedented, also, was the size of the crowds that gathered in the Deer District – the area adjacent to Fiserv Forum – to cheer on the Bucks. What started out as a few thousand fans early in the playoff run turned in to gatherings of 10,000 people or more by the end of the Eastern Conference semifinal series versus the Brooklyn Nets.

When the Bucks expanded the Deer District footprint to include the former Bradley Center site to the south, nightly crowds grew to nearly 25,000.

After the Bucks took a 3-2 lead over the Phoenix Suns in the Finals with a stirring win the Arizona desert on Saturday night, team officials sensed the possibility of an even larger crowd outside the arena for Game 6 back in Milwaukee. When it was announced that the Deer District would be expanded to hold as many as 65,000 people, some scoffed at the thought of that many fans gathering in person to watch what could be the championship-deciding game.

Wanting to be part of history, fans began filling the Deer District by late afternoon on Tuesday and by tip-off the expanded grounds filled to capacity.

“Tens of thousands of people who came downtown Tuesday to celebrate the Bucks victory did so safely and respectfully,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “We are counting on everyone to continue reveling responsibly in the coming days.”

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.