Tens of thousands of people lined city streets and gathered in droves in the Deer District on Thursday for a parade and celebration to honor the Milwaukee Bucks, the newly crowned NBA champions.
The parade wound its way through Downtown for more than 90 minutes before arriving at a vacant lot north of Fiserv Forum where a large stag draped in championship banners had been erected for the celebration to honor the team that captured the franchise’s first NBA title in 50 years.
Players, coaches and family members riding in open-top buses tossed T-shirts and waved to throngs of adoring fans who have been in a celebratory mood since the Bucks dramatic 105-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night that clinched the championship. Of course, there were also confetti cannons along the route.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo clutched both his Finals MVP hardware and the Larry O’Brien trophy as cheering fans fought to get a glimpse of the player who has lifted the franchise to elite status.
A fire truck with Bucks mascot Bango led the procession. Other vehicles carried key dignitaries and team supporters, among them former Bucks player Brandon Jennings, he of “Bucks in Six” fame.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who held a Bucks world champions banner, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers rode in lead vehicles in the parade.
Fans began staking out spots along the parade route overnight. By mid-morning, large crowds of supporters began streaming into the Deer District and packed in around the stage in anticipation of the celebration.
DJ Shawna played music while videos showing highlights of the Bucks’ magical playoff run were shown to keep the massive crowd entertained as everyone waited for the team to arrive.
As the vehicles approached the Deer District, the crowd pushed toward the street to snap photos and record videos of the procession. After the parade concluded, Bucks players and coaches took the stage. Over and over, they praised the crowd for its undying support throughout the season.
“Nothing matters, except what’s going on right here, right now,” Bucks forward P.J. Tucker said as he chugged champagne on stage, much to the delight of the crowd.
The loudest cheers, of course, were reserved for Antetokounmpo, whose 50-point performance in the series-clinching win is among the greatest in Finals history.
“Milwaukee, we did it, baby,” Antetokounmpo screamed. The crowd roared in appreciation.
The Bucks began the season with a mantra of “making history.” A sign on Fiserv Forum has already been changed to “history made.”
Indeed. A second NBA crown, a half century in the making.