MILWAUKEE — When the Milwaukee Bucks won their one and only NBA championship in 1971, thousands greeted the team at the airport, but there was no parade to celebrate the incredible feat.
Minnie Grayson has been a Milwaukee Bucks season ticket holder for more than 50 years. Her love for the team is on full display in her basement which’s filled with hundreds of pieces of Bucks history. She said her favorite will always be the ’71 championship.
“It was a lot of energy. People were really happy,” she said.
Minnie went to the ’71 Finals home games but when the Bucks clinched their rings and champagne was flowing in Baltimore, a celebratory parade never even crossed her mind.
“They just didn’t have parades back then,” she said. “The team won and you were happy, that was it.”
Rick Schabowski considers himself a Milwaukee sports historian and he even wrote a book about the Bucks’ championship run. He fondly remembers hearing Bucks announcer Eddie Doucette call on fans to meet the team at Mitchell Field to give them a warm welcome home.
“It was very close, very intimate that you were right next to the players and feeling the energy,” he said. “You had to go crazy and yell.”
Rick said a parade would have been nice, but the team and the city of Milwaukee never mentioned it so it didn’t happen.
Rick said the same was true for the 1970 championship New York Knicks team and the L.A. Lakers. Neither team received a championship parade as the NBA was just taking off and building viewership.
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The ‘Original Buck’, Jon McGlocklin, said his frustrations grew about the absence of a Bucks championship parade about a decade later.
“When I saw the Brewers had a parade in ’82 and I love that Brewer team and all those guys are my buddies, they came in second,” he said. “We won it and had no parade, that’s when it hit me.”
The Brewers weren’t the only ones. In 1957, the Milwaukee Braves championship team rode down Wisconsin Avenue where the street was lined by tens of thousands of fans.
“Baseball was more of a king of the sports back then, the World Series and stuff,” Rick said. “The Super Bowl was just fledging a few years in and basketball wasn’t as big.”
Now that pro basketball is huge in Milwaukee and around the world, the Bucks are just three wins shy of what could be a celebration big enough to make up for what could have been 50 years ago.
“If we win the title, it’s going to be on. It’s going to be a big parade in Milwaukee,” Minnie said.
Mayor Tom Barrett’s staff said he won’t speak just yet about what a Bucks championship parade would look like simply out of superstition as the team still has work to do to earn it. A staff member told TMJ4 News that Mayor Barrett is reviewing the route of the 1957 Braves parade that went through the heart of downtown.