Milwaukee Bucks: 49 years in 49 days – 1974-75 season

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks fell from making an NBA Finals Game 7 to much lesser heights following the 1974-75 season.

The season: 1974-75

The record: 38-44

The postseason: N/A

The story:

After coming within one victory of their second NBA championship, the Milwaukee Bucks regrouped and got ready for the next season. Although the loss was heartbreaking, there was reason for optimism.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Dandridge were still in their primes, although a huge loss was felt in the retirement of Oscar Robertson. Oscar was no longer the MVP candidate he was in earlier seasons, but his impact was always felt when he took the floor.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the Bucks felt another loss. In a preseason game, future Bucks head coach and current Boston Celtic Don Nelson scratched Kareem’s cornea while the big Buck went up for a rebound. Out of frustration at the incident, Kareem punched a stanchion and broke his hand. As a side note, that scratched cornea was the reason Kareem would begin winning goggles.

The eye didn’t take that long to heal, but the hand did. The Bucks were without Abdul-Jabbar for the first 16 games of the 1974-75 regular season, and 17 total games that year. With him, the team played far below their standard.

Milwaukee was just 35-30 with Kareem, a far cry from the winning percentages the team used to post in years prior. Without their prized center, the Bucks were completely hapless, winning three of 14 games.

Their Finals adversaries from last year, the Boston Celtics, lost their own center for roughly the same amount of games. The Celtics had a strong core around Dave Cowens and won 60 games even without him for part of the season. The Bucks, again, won 38.

After Milwaukee dominated the Midwest Division the season before, the rest of the Midwest rose up and got revenge during the 1974-75 season. The Bucks finished dead last in it, even below the Kansas City-Omaha Kings they had beaten seven times out of seven in the previous season.

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In addition to losing Oscar to retirement and losing Kareem for 17 games, the Bucks lost Lucius Allen to a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers early in the year. Milwaukee got Jim Price in return, who was two years younger but couldn’t match Allen’s scoring output.

Two of the most four important pieces from Milwaukee’s success in the 1973-74 season were now gone, and unfortunately for the Bucks another wouldn’t last much longer either. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar not making the postseason was unthinkable, and it seemed as though the Bucks had failed to put a team around him that could pick up any sort of slack.

Kareem had asked for a trade before the season, back in October 1974, due to his desire to live in a city that fit better with his lifestyle. Still, as the Bucks looked into potential trades, there was a period of time that might have been used to convince him to stay.

Next: 49 years in 49 days: 1973-74 season

Things couldn’t have gone worse in a prove-it year for the Milwaukee Bucks. A trip to the NBA Finals, especially a victorious one, might not have convinced Kareem to stay. Still, a 38-44 season cemented his decision to leave Milwaukee beyond a doubt, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be a Los Angeles Laker before the 1975-76 season even began.