Milwaukee Bucks: 49 years in 49 days – 1979-80 season

BOSTON - 1983: (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON - 1983: (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks returned to relevance in a big way starting in the 1979-80 NBA season.

The season: 1979-80

The record: 49-33

The postseason: 3-4, lost in first round

The story:

The Milwaukee Bucks returned to form–and NBA relevance–during the 1979-80 season after a rough year before it. For once, multiple factors worked in the Bucks favor, not against them.

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A series of trades involving draft picks would end up being incredibly important in franchise history. Essentially, according to, the Bucks would flip the 15th overall pick in 1978 for the fourth pick in 1979, which they turned into the fifth pick that same year plus cash.

That doesn’t mean much without the player names. The first player? Mike Mitchell. The second? Greg Kelser. The third? Sidney Moncrief.

That’s right. Some genius draft pick flipping by Don Nelson, who was both Milwaukee’s general manager and head coach at the time, turned what was essentially a random draft pick into Sid the Squid Moncrief, one of the best Bucks to ever wear the uniform.

Moncrief’s addition would change the Bucks, but it took a while. He scored less than nine points per game in his rookie season, while Brian Winters continued to hold down the starting shooting guard spot in Milwaukee.

His scoring would go on to tick up slightly in the postseason, but Moncrief was not the addition who made the biggest impact on the 1979-80 team. That would be one Bob Lanier.

After realizing he just was not working out in Milwaukee, the Bucks flipped Kent Benson to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for the Dobber. Lanier already had put together a Hall of Fame resume in his time with Detroit, receiving seven All-Star nods and recording eight straight 20 point per game seasons.

Like Benson, Lanier had been a first overall pick as well. The difference was he lived up to the selection. He was no longer in his prime at the age of 31, but the Dobber had some good basketball left in the tank for the Milwaukee Bucks.

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His experience and strong play led the Bucks to a 20-6 regular season record in Lanier’s games with Milwaukee, propelling the team to the postseason after a rough middle of the season. The return of Dave Meyers after missing a year due to injuries was a positive for the team as well.

Unfortunately, this would be Meyers’ last year. He suddenly retired after the season, in part to pursue a life of faith.

But for now, Meyers, Lanier, Marques Johnson, Junior Bridgeman, and company were heading to the postseason to take on the Seattle SuperSonics. Seattle, led by Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson, was a formidable opponent.

Next: 49 years in 49 days: 1978-79 season

Too formidable for the 1979-80 Milwaukee Bucks, at least. The SuperSonics won the series in seven games, sending the Bucks packing. Luckily, Milwaukee was far from done with postseason play in the 1980s.