On Saturday night, former Milwaukee Bucks star Junior Bridgeman fielded questions about potentially joining a group that will invest in the Bucks. His answers seemed to indicate that he is both interested in investing in the team and keeping it in Milwaukee.
Before Monday night’s game against the Utah Jazz, another former Buck was at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and received similar inquiries. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s responses made it sound as if he is interested in a future partnership with the Bucks, but not as an investor.
“When they get it together, if I get a call I will definitely come and offer my services, but there’s nothing on the table right now,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “If I had a chance to be a part of this franchise again I would take it.
“I’ve seen what Larry Bird did down in Indianapolis. He’s doing great. He knows how to pick the guys; they know how to play together. … I would hope that I would get a chance to do some of that and be a valuable asset in terms of the think tank that has to identify talent.”
At the game to help promote his “Airplane!”–themed commercial for the Wisconsin Tourism Board, Abdul-Jabbar, 66, spoke highly of the city he called home for six seasons from 1969-’75. While he admitted that he wanted to be traded in 1975, Abdul-Jabbar said Monday that the city was not the problem.
“Oscar (Robertson) had retired; we were not a contending team,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I wanted a change of scenery to go to someplace where I had more of a chance of winning.
“I didn’t have problems with any parts of the city. It didn’t matter where you lived, your ethnicity or anything — there certainly weren’t any Bulls fans here. It was Bucks country. If you were a Buck, you were all right.”
It’s been nearly 40 years since Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and 43 since the Bucks won their only championship with him as the centerpiece. During that time, the city and the National Basketball Association have changed.
With their lease ending in 2017 and a strong preference by the league for the Bucks to be out of the Bradley Center around that time, the future of basketball in Milwaukee cannot be taken for granted. The attendance for Monday’s game was 10,022 fans — the lowest in Bradley Center history for a Bucks game.
Abdul-Jabbar believes the Bucks can stay in Milwaukee and be a viable franchise over the long term, but it’s going to take some changes.
“I think they can (be viable). They have to get their business model right,” said Abdul-Jabbar, who cited television as an important revenue stream for many teams. “I hope that the Bucks are able to sort it all out and get on good footing because you can’t win it all unless you get the right players and you can’t get the right players unless you’re really in a good position as a business.”
During the first quarter, Abdul-Jabbar addressed the Bradley Center crowd, reiterating his hope that the Bucks will find a way to stay in Milwaukee.
“The fans we had here in Wisconsin are the best in the world,” he said. “I hope everything works out so the Bucks stay here.
“I hope they get their act together soon, so that you guys get to see some more championship basketball.”
Whether he’s invited to be part of the solution to the Bucks’ current issues remains to be seen. He’s made it clear that he’s interested.