Bango has been the Milwaukee Bucks’ mascot for close to 40 years, but where did it all start for the NBA’s most famous deer?
If you were to Google “what is Bango”, the world’s most popular search engine would answer you by pointing you towards a Wikipedia page which it believes answers that question.
"Bango (music) is a music style popular at the East African Coast that fuses traditional Portuguese, Arabic influenced taarab music and local coastal bantu languages. Bongo drum, an Afro-Cuban percussion instrument consisting of a pair of small open bottomed drums."
Fans of the Milwaukee Bucks would have a different answer though. For almost 40 years now, Bango has been the deer-like mascot of Milwaukee’s NBA team, and without question one of the league’s greatest mascots.
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In spite of having gone through various different incarnations and multiple makeovers, Bango has been arguably the Bucks most consistent performer throughout his time with the franchise. In fact, only Jon McGlocklin could possibly hold any real claim to rival Bango in those stakes.
According to Bucks.com, Bango was born on October 18, 1977, when the Bucks tipped off in their home opener of that season, pitting themselves up against one time fan favorite Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then of the Los Angeles Lakers. There couldn’t have been a better replacement for Kareem either, as there was no real danger of a deer spurning Wisconsin for another city based on cultural compatibility.
The Bucks’ mascot came to have his name thanks to the response that was often elicited from famed broadcaster Eddie Doucette whenever a Milwaukee player, often Jonny Mac, would make a jump shot.
"Bango was a phrase coined by Eddie Doucette, the original “Voice of the Bucks,” whenever a player connected on a long-range basket. When the club held a contest to name their new mascot, a few thousand entries were received, and the most popular by far was “Bango.”"
Unlike the Milwaukee Robins, the most popular suggestion in the contest to name the team upon it’s foundation, this was one case in which the public got it right.
Bango would go on to build a name for himself thanks to an array of acrobatic performances, good natured fan interactions and obviously, perfecting the overhead halfcourt shot.
For many years now Bango’s pinpoint accuracy has been a common sight at the Bradley Center. Whether the shot clock is winding down and the fans are hungry for a prize or he’s dunking off the top of a ladder to add an extra splash of playoff intensity to the building, Bango delivers.
Over the years, Bango has been through a lot. As detailed by the Bucks official website, he got his first car in 1984, got married in 2002, and then three years later Bango Jr. arrived on the scene.
All of that fails to mention the friendships and rivalries formed along the way though. Bango grew particularly close with former Buck Brandon Jennings. The duo even shot an ESPN commercial together back in 2011 alongside Jon Barry and the late Stuart Scott.
The relationship between Jennings and Bango even stretched beyond the gaze of the cameras, as Bango revealed in a Reddit AMA that Jennings had once used his commercial sway to hook his mascot friend up with a very special pair of shoes.
"“Brandon Jennings actually had Under Armour design the shoes that I wear. They have fur and everything. He showed up to training camp with them one year and surprised me with them. It was really cool.”"
Not all of Bango’s relationships have been so strong though. The Buck has had his fair share of rivalries too, such as the time he made a Magic fan disappear.
And then, of course, there’s Bango’s own chapter in the great Robin Lopez/mascot rivalry (it’s a long story). Lopez and Bango had engaged in many a war of words on social media before ultimately engaging in a lightsaber battle when the Bucks hosted the Knicks on Star Wars night last season.
That clash with Lopez wasn’t the only adversity that Milwaukee’s most famous deer has had to face in recent years either. Due to his grueling schedule and the high degree of difficulty of many of his stunts of choice, Bango has been no stranger to injuries over the years.
The most notable injury suffered by the 38-year-old came back in 2012 when a stunt at All-Star Weekend went wrong, resulting in a torn ACL that required surgery.
Fortunately, Bango made a full recovery and has been back at his best ever since.
So, the next time you see Bango riding on to the court on his trademark Harley Davidson during the fourth quarter, take a moment to realize just how lucky Bucks fans are.
In a world where a fanbase could easily end up stuck with a mascot troupe that could lead to endless nightmares, Milwaukee has one of the league’s most committed, entertaining and engaging mascots, performers and representatives.
Bango has had a memorable 38 years to date, one can only imagine what’s still left to come.