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The story behind the Milwaukee Hawks and the powerhouse they became

Posted at 6:29 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 19:29:31-04

MILWAUKEE — "I was picked second in the draft by the Milwaukee Hawks," Bob Pettit says.

You heard that right. That's the voice of Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Pettit, who once played at the Milwaukee Arena with the Milwaukee Hawks.

"The first game ever they drew over 6,000 people, which was pretty good. Their first year, they didn't do that bad in attendance because it was kind of a novelty," Matt Prigge says.

"The Hawks did their best, but they didn't come out on top. And they had some good players. And from what they started out with, it was fine. But they didn't get support the way they should have," Bob Wanek says.

Matt Prigge is a local historian who also knows the then-Minneapolis Lakers got the Hawks here.

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"The Lakers helped to orchestrate the move to Milwaukee, which had just built a new arena," Prigge says.

The other little known fact, occasionally the Milwaukee Hawks played next door.

Lance Allan of TMJ4 Sports: "A lot of people don't realize that this was a basketball arena, and it housed a pro basketball team?"

"Yeah, the four years the Milwaukee Hawks, or the Hawks franchise, called Milwaukee home. They did play occasionally here, which is now the Miller High Life Theatre, what was then the Milwaukee Auditorium," Prigge says.

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And what's sad: shortly after the Milwaukee Hawks moved to St. Louis, they became a force.

"This is where they become a powerhouse," Prigge says. "They're in the NBA Finals in their second season in St. Louis. They win the Finals their third season. I think of the 13 years there, they make the playoffs 12 times. They go the Finals four or five times. So yeah, if they had able to keep the team in Milwaukee, they would have gotten good and they might have been able to build some support here."

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