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Milwaukee Bucks success from a Chicago Bulls fan perspective

By: Alex Patt

The Milwaukee Bucks have clinched their first NBA Championship since 1971 in a thrilling six game series against the Phoenix Suns. Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the NBA’s great stars, is the first Buck to win Finals MVP since the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. As a person with Greek blood in him, seeing “The Greek Freak” accomplish this is pretty cool.

As a fan of their division rival, the Chicago Bulls, how do I feel about it?

Illinois and Wisconsin typically see each other as bitter rivals when it comes to sports. Whether it has been the century-long clash between the Bears and Packers, the many matchups between the Fighting Illini and Badgers or the more recent battles between the Cubs and Brewers, the two Midwest states fight for bragging rights all year round. However, I feel like the Bulls and the Bucks do not have the same level of heat when it comes to Illinois-Wisco sports rivalries. I can personally say that if there is a Wisconsin team I do not mind, it is the Bucks. Other Bulls fans I know feel the same, not all of them, but a good number of them.

Here’s the thing that gets me, I never thought I would see the day where the Bucks are the far more relevant team of the two. The past few years the Bucks have been dominating and have finally won a championship, while the Bulls have not had a legit shot at a title since the Derrick Rose era. Yes, the Bulls are still one of the NBA’s big franchises with one of the biggest fanbases in sports, but they have not been winning. The Bucks have been winning and they are now in the national spotlight.

This is NOT a knock on the Bucks franchise or what they have done, I am just saying how things have changed.

I can remember as a kid watching the Bulls go to Milwaukee, and would always see the stands at the old Bradley Center covered in red. Back in 2005 when I was in fifth grade I went to a Bulls/Bucks game in Milwaukee, and I would say it was 75% Bulls fans there. Like they did often in my youth, the Bulls beat the Bucks that game. When Derrick Rose was in his MVP prime and the Bulls were at the top of the standings, they would absolutely destroy the Bucks. I still remember going nuts when Rose hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in Milwaukee and the place sounded like the United Center back in 2012. In those years the Bucks would appear on the Bulls schedule and they would be chalked up as a fairly easy win.

To sum it up, the Bulls were a big popular team (still riding off the MJ days years later) that would sell out every game and draw huge TV ratings, and the Bucks were kind of just…there. They existed. Not the worst team in the world, but nowhere near championship caliber. They had a loyal following and would draw okay, but not among the top-tier in attendance. The Bucks were simply a small market team with a local interest.

I can only imagine what it was like for the Bucks in the 90s having to Michael Jordan beat them on a yearly basis and go on to win six titles. It was against the Bucks the Bulls won their 70th game in 1996.

Go back and tell elementary/high school me that the Bucks would one day be the top dog between the two teams. Tell that version of me that the Bucks would beat the crap out of the Bulls and they would be winning a title before the Bulls in the 21st century. My response would likely be:

“What? The Bucks?!?…THEM?…That Bambi team from Milwaukee?…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Right!”

Even when the Bucks began building up in the mid-2010s, they still couldn’t get past the Bulls. Remember the 2015 first round? The Bulls clinched that series with a 120-66 win in Game 6. Since then it has been a 180 for both teams.

Now the Bulls are looking to get back to contention and will have Giannis and the Bucks as a team they have to get through. It is a tough test for Artūras Karnišovas, but I have to trust the process for now. AK is one of the best evaluators of talent there is and I certainly feel he is the right man for the job. How long before they are contenders again? Who knows, but right now they look up at the Bucks as they sit on their championship throne.

All I can say right now is congrats to the Milwaukee Bucks. They have brought joy to their city, and have caught the eye of the sports world. Giannis will go down in history for his excellent play while battling injury. Again, congrats Milwaukee.


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