‘Fear the Deer’ — it’s real when talking Milwaukee Bucks

Ryan Stieg

For the first time in 50 years, NBA franchises can officially “Fear the Deer.”

That’s been the Milwaukee Bucks’ marketing slogan for awhile and although it’s clever, the Bucks never truly inspired fear in teams. The Bucks were more skittish themselves than actually intimidating. You know, like actual deer.

That was evident for the past couple of seasons as Milwaukee would have these strong regular seasons, like kings of the large forest that is the Eastern Conference. But then those nervous Bucks would run into an opponent’s car earlier than expected in the playoffs and would end up lying on the side of the highway with us onlookers wondering what happened.

The Bucks finished with the best record in the East two years ago and seemed like they’d charge into the NBA Finals. After all, Milwaukee swept the Detroit Pistons and sprinted past the Boston Celtics in five games in the first two rounds.

However, then they met the Toronto Raptors in the conference finals and just like how it would probably be in a real-life Jurassic Park, the Bucks were mauled by the Raptors and eliminated.

Things were even more disappointing the following year as Milwaukee once again was the top seed in the East and weren’t confused by the hometown Orlando Magic in the first round during the Walt Disney World COVID-19 bubble.

However, in the second round, the Bucks couldn’t withstand the Miami Heat and were quickly sent back to the Wisconsin woods. Deer hunting season came early that year in Florida.

Going into this year, some Wisconsin sports fans I know started to wonder if it was ever going to happen for Milwaukee. They had arguably the most dominant player in the league in two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and a quality lineup, but just couldn’t get it done in the postseason. However, as is usually the case for cursed franchises, fortunes tend to change when you’re just about to give up.

This year was the 50th anniversary of the Bucks’ only NBA title, back when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson were stars in the league, so a title this year would be appropriate. Also, unlike the previous two seasons, Milwaukee finished third in the East and the pressure of being the top seed seemed to have disappeared.

The Bucks got revenge in a sweep of the Heat and managed to get past a Brooklyn superteam in seven games, beating the Nets twice on the road to make the East finals. Now, with a chance to make the NBA Finals for the first time since 1975, Milwaukee didn’t trip and got past the Atlanta Hawks, something previous Bucks teams wouldn’t have pulled off.

Milwaukee then had to deal with Phoenix and a Suns squad led by star and fan favorite Chris Paul, who was making his first trip to the finals. Once again, it looked like the Bucks might get hit by a truck as they lost the first two games.

Instead, Milwaukee weaved around the truck, avoided the ditch and won four straight to end their 50-year title drought. Perhaps to emphasize the end to that 50-year gap, Antetokounmpo scored 50 points Tuesday night and celebrated by ordering 50 chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A the next day.

Finishing all that food might be an even better performance than what he did the night before.

Watching Milwaukee win its championship was fun to watch as an estimated 65,000 people partied in the Deer District outside of the Fiserv Forum after the victory. Despite the fact that the Deer District sounds like an area that the Wisconsin DNR marked for bucks to be hunted, seeing long-suffering fans celebrate was great to see.

They now join fans of the Boston Red Sox in 2004, Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 and Kansas City Chiefs in 2020 in exulting in joy and then relaxing after finally getting that championship they’ve been craving for decades.

And all it took to get that is a smart draft pick in nabbing Antetokounmpo, building a team around him, getting Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans in a four-team trade in November, and then a little luck and faith mixed in for good measure.

So enjoy this win, Milwaukee. After years of being highly strung and jumpy in the playoffs, the Bucks stared down approaching vehicles and fearlessly crossed that road to a title.

It’s no longer a good marketing slogan. The NBA now truly does Fear the Deer.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.


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