By the start of the fourth quarter last night, everyone in the Deer District knew the Bucks were going to win,* and yet the electrified air of eager anticipation still encapsulated the crowd. We were no longer waiting for the Bucks to catch up, rally or extend their lead. We were waiting for Bobby.
Every chapter of Bobby Portis’ career-high, 22-point game was met with an explosion of ovation from the crowd, chanting “BOB-BY! BOB-BY! BOB-BY!” as fans reached the dizzying revelation that we’re still in this series despite losing our superstar. Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Jrue Holiday all played exceptionally, but Portis was the hero.
We in Milwaukee love an underdog, and in his post-game interview, it was clear that Portis gets Milwaukee. “The city goes through a lot, so when they see somebody who gives his all and works hard because it’s a blue-collar city, and I’m a blue-collar player.”
We do go through a lot. Winters are rough. The charlatans at ESPN take easy shots at us for being a Rust Belt town. And year after year, we see our teams get this close to winning a championship and fall just short of the mark. But we never give up. We pull out the snowblower, put the “Terrible City” moniker on a t-shirt for charity, and dust off our cheeseheads and jerseys for each new season. After a hard loss to the Hawks and the pressure to replace one of the greatest Bucks of all time, Portis never gave up, either.
Portis is the perfect proxy for Milwaukee. Whereas Giannis feels like a glitch in the matrix, a Greek God destined for a major-market team that somehow crashed in flyover country, Bobby looks like the kind of person you might see at Pick’n’Save. He has a shirt on under his jersey and the facial expression of a guy who wandered in from the bathroom and was pushed onto the court.** That’s exactly the sensation of a smaller market somehow one win away from the NBA Finals. I like to think that Milwaukee is standing in for the rest of Middle America, saying “we don’t need to change who we are to be relevant.” Like our star said, we’re a blue-collar city, and we’re damn proud of it.
BIG FACTS! 1 more! Let’s go!! https://t.co/QcIShzcsSF
— Bobby BP Portis (@BPortistime) July 2, 2021
The significance of this opportunity isn’t lost on Portis, still fighting after a disappointing first few years in the NBA, bouncing between teams and never getting enough playing time to prove himself. “I started my career kind of shaky, up and down, a lot of highs, a lot of lows. And when you first come to the NBA, you don’t really understand the journey.” When a reporter remarked how happy he looks making history with the Bucks, he replied, “I finally found peace, man.”
With a player option this offseason, Portis’ future with the Bucks is currently unknown. Fans are begging for him to stick around, but I’ve decided to simply enjoy this beautiful moment. It’s Bobby time.
*Usually, the cardinal rule of Bucks fandom is never trust the Bucks, forged from painful memories of blown leads and wasted potential. But this game felt like a lock.
**To be clear, Bobby was never a schlub. He was awarded All-American in high school and SEC Player of the Year in college.