Seen in the stands of the Fiserv Forum, for Game 4 between the Bucks and the Suns, Oscar Robertson and especially Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are among the best players to have worn the colors of the Wisconsin franchise.
Especially since the two men were the leaders of the only Bucks team that managed to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Milwaukee. A coronation that dates back to the spring of 1971, at the end of the first season of their duo, which began in April 1970, with the arrival of Oscar Robertson from the Cincinnati Royals.
Yet, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently told USA Today, all was not rosy when this illustrious tandem was formed. The now leading scorer in the history of the league doubted, thus, the capacities of an Oscar Robertson on the downward slope …
« Isn’t he a little too old? “, He wondered then, in reference to the 32 years of the” Big O “. ” He was the best player, the most complete of all, and I was wondering about his age … »
Debut with a bang on the pitch
These doubts quickly put aside on the field by Oscar Robertson himself (19.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar then got down to carrying Milwaukee throughout this exercise.
In his second NBA campaign, “KAJ” effectively delivered a full season, averaging no less than 31.7 points and 16.0 rebounds in 1970/71. Enough, of course, to finish MVP and league leading scorer for the first time in his career. As for the Bucks, founded three years earlier in 1968, they had managed to win 66 of their 82 games played that year (80.5% success). Even today, it is quite simply the best record in Wisconsin franchise history.
Proof that the Robertson / Abdul-Jabbar duo could work, and even work very well. Despite initial doubts about the future six-time MVP of the regular season …
« I wasn’t going to do anything that would put Oscar [Robertson] uncomfortable or disturbing him », He recalls, concerning this time. ” He wanted to play at a fast tempo. I could run fast and good enough to follow him. He had no trouble giving me the ball in the racket to let me play my game. »
Unfortunately, the romance between Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Milwaukee will only last “only” four years. The time that the team coached by Larry Costello won 248 of its 328 regular season games played between 1970 and 1974. And that it was champion in 1971, while reaching the Finals again in 1974.
A retirement that involves a transfer …
Upon retirement from the “Big O” in the summer of 1974, the Bucks’ results then fell drastically, dropping from a record of 59 wins and 23 losses in 1973/74 to a record of 38 wins and 44 losses in 1974. 75. At 27, feeling that his history with the Wisconsin franchise was coming to an end, “KAJ” ended up claiming his transfer.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had thus expressed his desire to join the Lakers, the Knicks or the Bullets, more likely to lead him to glory. And it is finally in Los Angeles that he will go, in June 1975.
« I needed to go where I could thrive the most in this business “, Admits in this regard the legend of the Bucks. ” I didn’t want to walk away feeling bitterness or anything. But Milwaukee didn’t appeal to me for the long haul. It was time for me to go. […] Finally, [les dirigeants] gave me their word and then they found the best possible deal for me. »
Better yet: after expressing his desire to leave Wisconsin, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has never been treated as an outcast by Milwaukee fans. Unlike other players after him …
« Fans appeared to have agreed [mon départ] », He concludes. ” It is as if they are already satisfied that we have won a title. Like me, they didn’t see us winning another, given our squad. »
But 53 years later, however, it could be that Bucks fans will see their long wait being rewarded with a new title. Provided, of course, that the teammates of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday win twice against the Suns, during the last three meetings of these 2021 Finals …