The Milwaukee Bucks have won 60 games in a single season four times in franchise history. Three came under Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One did not.
Winning 60 games in a single season is incredibly hard to do in the NBA. Now that the Golden State Warriors might push for 80 wins next season it’s easy to forget, but 60 wins is a huge milestone for talented teams to surpass.
The Milwaukee Bucks have only hit 60 wins four times throughout team history. Three of them happened consecutively, back when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the man in the middle in Milwaukee.
Since Kareem left the Bucks, only one Bucks team has won 60 games in a season. The 1980-81 Milwaukee Bucks were the first–and last–Bucks team in the post-Kareem era to hit that mark.
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Obviously enough, that team was great. Marques Johnson led those Bucks in scoring, but 1981 wasn’t one of his peak scoring seasons. It was his apex as a point forward though–Marques never surpassed the 4.6 assists per game he averaged that season.
He added 20.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game as well. 1981 was one of Marques’ five All-Star worthy seasons, and one of two times he earned Second Team All-NBA honors.
Although one player was at the center of that great Bucks team, Milwaukee was deep that year. Every player who averaged more than 15 minutes per game scored in double figures, and those Bucks had stars besides Marques.
Junior Bridgeman had one of his finest NBA seasons in ’81, averaging 16.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Bridgeman was second on the team in scoring, although a younger Buck was the true second star on that team.
Sidney Moncrief was only in his second year with the team and wouldn’t start being recognized as an All-Star until the next season, but he really started to stand out in ’81.
Sid the Squid averaged 14.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. In addition, he led the Bucks in offensive rating with an incredible 124 points scored per 100 possessions.
Compared to the mere 104 points he allowed per 100 possessions, Moncrief was outscoring opponents by some 20 points per 100 possessions. That mark led all Bucks–even the nationally-recognized Marques Johnson.
Bob Lanier was also an important part of that squad. Lanier added 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks per game in just 26.2 minutes of action. Although the Dobber’s best days were with the Pistons, he added a ton to that fantastic Milwaukee Bucks team.
Quinn Buckner, Mickey Johnson and Brian Winters rounded out that group of Bucks who had per game scoring averages of at least ten points. Buckner had a strong season, averaging 13.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Only Micheal Ray Richardson and Magic Johnson averaged more steals per game in 1981 than Buckner did.
The other person who really deserves credit for Milwaukee’s success in the 1980-81 season is Don Nelson. Nelson still leads all NBA coaches in total wins, and a lot of those victories came in his time with the Bucks.
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Out of his 1335 career wins, 60 of them came in this one season. Partly due to his innovative style of allowing Marques Johnson to run the offense, the ’81 Bucks were truly great.
Unfortunately, as good as that team was they didn’t make it out of the first round of the 1981 NBA Playoffs. The Bucks ran into a Philadelphia 76ers team led by Julius Erving and lost in seven games.
Even if the Bucks could’ve gotten past the 76ers, the eventual champion Boston Celtics were waiting for whichever team won the series. The Eastern Conference was exceedingly tough those days, even for 60 win teams.
Still, the 1980-81 Milwaukee Bucks deserve recognition for what they accomplished that season. Bucks fans doubtlessly hope that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker can bump them out of “last Bucks team to win 60 games” status, but their fantastic season will always stand out in Bucks history.