The year was 1971. Disney World has opened its doors to the world. Sean Connery returned to the Bond franchise in ‘Diamonds are Forever,’ and the Milwaukee Bucks swept the now-defunct Baltimore Bullets in the NBA finals, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leading the Wisconsin outfit to their one and only Championship. The world has changed a lot since then, with the NBA transitioning heavily through the eighties, nineties and noughties. Gone are the days of tall, strong shooters filling the forward line of the best teams and in-comes the smaller defensive specialists with a dime or dunk up their shooting sleeves. Of course the positions of the NBA remain the same but the league is a different place, but there’s some sort of deja vu feeling about this year’s Milwaukee Bucks.
Led by the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokoumpo, the Bucks have built an ensemble quite different from recent winners of the NBA finals. The Lakers have LeBron at the helm, switching between point-guard and power forward throughout games, with Anthony Davis providing an excellent conversion rate and a stature in defence to be desired by all. Golden State built their own super team, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combining to be one of the best guard partnerships of all-time, with the addition of Kevin Durant (albeit suffered from injuries) and the defensive powerhouse that is Draymond Green to support a free-flowing attacking team, under the tutelage of Steve Kerr, a student of the game as a player that learned from the likes of Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich from his time at Chicago and San Antonio respectively. But this year’s Bucks don’t have a super-team.
Mike Budenholzer, the coach, was praised for his work at Atlanta but since arriving at Milwaukee, has failed to earn a ring with a team that should be representing the Eastern conference in the NBA finals. The nearly-man lies just one game away from getting his hands on the Larry O’Brien trophy, with the help of his guard and forward combination, just like Larry Costello back in 1971.
Just like the 1971 team, Giannis and Middleton have combined so far in the finals to overturn a 2-0 deficit and give themselves two chances to take the trophy home, with a special mention for Jrue Holiday for making up the Bucks’ ‘Big Three’ and guiding home their third win of the series with excellent shooting. There’s a lot of parallels between then and now, and we’ll see if the Bucks can end their 50-year trophy drought on Wednesday morning, after a series full of mega-moments that’ll be remembered by the fans for many years to come.