Milwaukee Bucks: Time to honor Ray Allen and the Bucks’ big 3 era

14 Apr 2002: (Mandatory credit: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)
14 Apr 2002: (Mandatory credit: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images) /

With his Hall of Fame induction imminent, the time has come for the Milwaukee Bucks to celebrate Ray Allen and the franchise’s most recent true high point.

As we prepare for the latest batch of inductions to the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, Ray Allen’s place in the proceedings allows Milwaukee Bucks fans a chance to reminisce.

Considering the lack of meaningful success in the franchise’s recent history, and the Bucks’ inability to sustain spells of competitiveness since the 1980s, Milwaukee’s fans have arguably been forced into growing a little too used to looking back on bygone days of glory rather than being able to enjoy success within that moment.

Having said that, if it wasn’t for one particular season, and a group of players spearheaded by Allen, Milwaukee’s recent history would be even more barren than it already is.

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The 2000-01 season culminated in the Bucks coming up just one game short of a place in The Finals, but even prior to what was a controversial Game 7 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee’s 52 regular season wins were significant.

Entering the new season, the Bucks’ wait for another 50-win season will be into its 18th season, yet if it wasn’t for the team’s success in 2001, that drought would stretch back a remarkable (and painful) 32 years.

Considering how successful the Bucks were through the first two decades of their existence, the team’s struggles since are particularly unfortunate.

A combination of factors including Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s emergence, and the conscious efforts of ownership to rebrand and essentially spread the word, have led to an improvement in the Bucks’ perception and popularity, yet Milwaukee would likely still have boasted its reputation as a “basketball town”, if not for the dramatic drop-off experienced over the past 30 years or so.

Those extended droughts have left the Bucks’ fanbase in an interesting place. Of course, when the Bucks open their new season at Fiserv Forum in October, there will be many in attendance who vividly remember the team’s run of only missing the playoffs on three occasions between 1969-70 to 1990-91. Still, there will be many who don’t have that luxury, and as a result, the exploits of Allen and Co. in the 2000-01 season stand out as the peak of their Bucks fandom.

In recent years, the Bucks have done a much better job of welcoming former players back into the fold, with franchise greats becoming a regular sight at games in the final years of the Bradley Center. While legends of the 60s, 70s and 80s have come and gone, representatives of the 2001 squad have generally remained notable in their absence.

There could be a variety of factors playing a part in that too.

The team came together and fell apart in such rapid fashion that their lack of longevity may take from any potential sense of reverence. Perhaps the current decision-makers aren’t all that keen to make too much noise about a promising team that had a short lived peak and lost their star player unnecessarily considering what the next few years could have in store for Milwaukee. Or most simply of all, maybe those players haven’t been all that eager to return considering the factors that led to their sudden demise.

Even with George Karl long since departed from the franchise, Allen would have more reason than anyone for that to be the case, considering the unsavory ending to his time with the Bucks and the farcical trade that sent him to Seattle.

With all of that said, the time has come for the Bucks to remember Allen, along with Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell, and the rest of the 2001 roster. If an olive branch needs to be offered, it should be. If invitations need to be extended so everyone feels the love, they should be.

Perhaps the Bucks have tried to do just that in recent years to no avail, but redoubling those efforts would be worthwhile.

As popular as the Bucks’ championship throwback jerseys were last season, the din of fans crying out for a return of the purple jerseys the team wore in 2001, or the famed green and purple deer head uniforms prior to that, never seems to die down. Sure, that can be attributed to the look of those jerseys, but it’s also representative of a greater nostalgia that naturally exists within the fanbase due to the performance of the team over the past couple of decades.

Jerseys worn by the likes of Allen and Robinson on their way up with the Bucks, and in their heyday with the team should mean more to the fanbase than any other, as simply a higher percentage of that group are able to draw on memories of that time and the heights of 2001 it included.

There’s no disputing how great it is to see the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Jon McGlocklin and Marques Johnson at Bucks games and events across the course of the season, but a combination of novelty and recency may make seeing more recent Bucks heroes even more special for a wide swathe of the team’s fanbase.

That’s not to say it should be an issue of either or, as essentially all of the franchise’s great players and teams should be celebrated, whether from 1971 or 2001.

For Allen, a potential jersey retirement could certainly lie in wait at some point in the future, although the play of the current No. 34 has undoubtedly complicated how exactly that could work.

Regardless, the Bucks should not wait until they’ve got such a lofty honor to bestow on him before trying to get Allen involved again.

Just imagine the noise if, among the luminaries certain to be in attendance for the home opener at Fiserv Forum against the Pacers, Ray Allen was to rise from a courtside seat and wave to the crowd. Talk about lighting it up.

Maybe in March when the Clippers visit and Cassell takes his position as an assistant coach on the opposing bench, and Darvin Ham works as an assistant from the Bucks’ bench, Allen, Robinson and a number of their teammates from 2001 could be in attendance to provide a mini-reunion of sorts too.

It’s become common place for the Bucks to have 90s nights and 00s nights throughout the course of the season, but the time has come for those themed celebrations to take on an even more specific focus. The Bucks have their own great team to celebrate from that era, and it’s one that clearly means more to many fans than is likely easy to understand for those who weren’t caught up in Milwaukee’s “Big-Three” fever at the turn of the century.

I mean, what Bucks fan’s life wouldn’t be improved with an Ervin Johnson bobblehead?

It will be great to see Allen receive the kind of accolade his incredible career deserves when he officially becomes a Hall of Famer on Friday, but now the next step will be for the Bucks to embrace their former star and the many great moments he and his teammates helped to provide a fanbase long starved of reasons to celebrate.

Next. Win in 6 Podcast #242: A strange Hall of Fame history. dark

Stick with us at Behind the Buck Pass for more on Ray Allen, and coverage of his Hall of Fame induction in the coming days, as well as extensive articles about the franchise’s history throughout the month. Click here, to find them all in the one place.