Milwaukee Bucks: 49 years in 49 days – 1975-76 season

PHILADELPHIA - CIRCA 1980: (Photo by Ron Koch/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - CIRCA 1980: (Photo by Ron Koch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks entered a new, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-less era heading into the 1975-76 season.

The season: 1975-76

The record: 38-44

The postseason: 1-2, lost in first round

The story:

After experiencing one of the most dominant runs in NBA history thanks to the transcendent play of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Milwaukee Bucks slumped down to 38-44 in their last year with Kareem, then somehow maintained that same record in their first Kareem-less season since drafting the star center in 1969.

More from Bucks History

In exchange for Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley, the Los Angeles Lakers sent Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, and two picks in the 1975 NBA Draft. The picks would become Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman.

Listen — there’s for sure no way to “win” a trade where a prime Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is being sent somewhere else. Still, considering he forced the trade out of Milwaukee, there were certainly worse returns to be had. Initially, Los Angeles had wanted to trade one of Winters or the draft picks, not both.

Luckily the Bucks held fast and refused to take anything but both, and Kareem being Kareem caused L.A. to relent and include the whole package. The return became a portion of the Bucks rotation for much of the next half-decade in Milwaukee.

We’re focused on that first season at the moment, though, and it was a quiet one. Bob Dandridge, predictably, became the lead dog now that Kareem, Oscar Robertson and Lucius Allen were all gone from the Bucks.

Also predictably, having the former third banana become the primary weapon on the team significantly lowered Milwaukee’s ceiling. Bridgeman and Winters were good players, both of whom would end up getting their numbers retired by the team, but in their first year in Milwaukee they weren’t yet ready to lead the Bucks very far.

In a cruel twist of fate, that unit’s 38 wins was enough to make the postseason in 1976, after Kareem and company had to sit out of the playoffs the year before for having the same record.

More from Behind the Buck Pass

The rest of the Midwest Division went from being significantly better than 38-44 to literally all being worse than that in the span of one season, leaving the hapless Milwaukee Bucks in first place in their division. Somehow.

Despite their strong divisional standing in the regular season, Milwaukee did not enjoy the same winning ways against the Midwest in the playoffs. At the time, the first round was decided via a three-game series instead of seven.

The division rival Detroit Pistons were the Bucks’ opponent, and they managed to win the series 2-1 and advance to the next round. Winters took the lead scorer title on the team from Dandridge in the postseason, and Gary Brokaw had a nice series as well.

Next: 49 years in 49 days: 1974-75 season

Still, future Milwaukee Buck Bob Lanier hadn’t yet joined the team, and in his prime he was just too much for the Bucks to handle. Without a dominant big man of their own, Milwaukee couldn’t get back in the series after taking a 1-0 lead on the strength of a 36-point Gary Brokaw outburst.