Half a century after landing his only NBA ring, Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s most populous city, has flopped this year with promising Bucks from Giannis Antetokounmpo and dreams of turning around the 2021 NBA Finals that for now lose 1-2 against the Phoenix Suns.
The green color of the Bucks dominates this city on the shores of Lake Michigan these days with an important working-class tradition and that is the heart of the state of Wisconsin.
Only the most veteran of the place remember the title of 1971 that the Bucks conquered with the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the helm, but in Milwaukee very few doubt right now that they are facing a historic opportunity to proclaim themselves NBA champions again.
The surroundings of the bright and very new Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee have become in these playoffs a pilgrimage center for Bucks fans.
In the so-called Deer District, “deer district” In reference to the name and image of the Bucks, thousands of fans gathered on Sunday to follow the victory of their team on giant screens and with many beers in hand, since 19th century German immigration to Wisconsin established Milwaukee as one of America’s beer capitals.
In the middle of a great atmosphere, the battle cry was “Bucks in six” (“The Bucks win in six games”), the answer to the popular “Suns in four” (“The Suns win in four games”) that fans chanted in Phoenix.
One of those passionate Milwaukee fans is Mike McLain, who came to the stadium wearing a Bucks jersey and a curious and very elaborate orange makeup all over his face that pretended to be a basketball.
“It took me about two hours to put makeup on my face and two people helped me”, he said to Efe.
McLain could be heart divided in these Finals, having lived for 17 years in Milwaukee and only a year and a half ago moved to Phoenix.
But he is very clear that his team is from Milwaukee, so much so that he flew from Phoenix just to support some Bucks who, in his opinion, have to compete “harder” and offer more support to Antetokounmpo.
“The whole team has to take a step forward. We have to play inside but also get shots from outside”, commented.
“The Suns are very strong, they have an impressive team. I think it’s a very even pairing and I just hope the Bucks are able to pull it off. “
A greek hero
In a city that reveres the Green bay packers American football the only non-profit, fan-owned major league team in the U.S., a 26-year-old young man from Greece, has established himself as an absolute hero.
It’s impossible to walk around Milwaukee these days without seeing t-shirts -some of them from the Greek team- by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the head of the quality jump of these Bucks.
Michael, a Lyft driver from Milwaukee, reminded Efe that not so many years ago the Bucks were a mediocre team and that it was easy to get free tickets since the franchise used to give away tickets.
But the story began to change with the arrival in 2013 of the “Greek Freak”, who, after impressive growth on and off the court, won the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 2019 and 2020.
These are the first Finals that the Bucks have played with Antetokounmpo in their squad, but the team blindly trusts the Greek as evidenced by the massive five-year, $ 228 million renovation that they signed in December 2020.
For his part, the player has stressed on numerous occasions his loyalty to a city that he defines as his “home”.
“Winning a championship in Milwaukee is like a dream, it’s a goal for me”he said last week at a press conference.
“All NBA players want to win a championship, but Doing it with the team that chose you in the draft, in the city that welcomed you and with the organization that helped you means a lot “, added.