Milwaukee Bucks: Marques Johnson’s legacy finally comes full circle

With the news that the Milwaukee Bucks will retire Marques Johnson‘s jersey on March 24, one of the long-standing oversights regarding the franchise’s history has now finally been resolved.

At present, the Milwaukee Bucks are relishing in their long awaited return into the NBA’s spotlight.

The Bucks have been a well-oiled machine all throughout the 2018-19 season, mowing down their opponents on a near nightly basis on their way to currently holding the best record in the NBA by winning percentage (.733) and standing atop of the Eastern Conference.

Not only do they sport a leading MVP candidate in superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, but their strong supporting cast and collective depth has increasingly become one of the team’s greatest strengths as the season has unfolded.

All the while Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has pulled each and every string, which stemmed from the overhaul he and his staff overlooked from training camp in order to push the Bucks forward into the NBA’s modern age.

Based on all those factors, there are similarities that can be drawn between the Bucks this season and the Bucks squads from their illustrious run throughout the 1980’s, arguably the team’s greatest point as a franchise.

With Hall of Fame head coach Don Nelson at the helm, that era of the Bucks is most remembered as the team that could never punch their ticket to the Finals with Goliaths such as the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers always standing in the way of the Bucks’ pursuit of reaching the proverbial summit.

And while those Bucks teams were and have been defined by the collective unit they built in shaping over many seasons, there’s no question they were led by special individual talents and Hall of Fame worthy players.

Now, we all know the story from here as many of those players from that era, ranging from the likes of Junior Bridgeman, Bob Lanier, Sidney Moncrief and Brian Winters, have all been recognized by the Bucks with having each and every one of their jerseys retired once they all called it a day (save for Moncrief, who came back for one more season with the Atlanta Hawks in 1990-91 following his jersey retirement on January 6, 1990).

There’s no disputing all four of those players are deserving of that honor, but it was safe to say that there was one instrumental name missing from that group of players that made reflecting on that era of the team’s history feel less complete, that omission being Marques Johnson.

Thankfully, that will no longer be the case as it was announced over the weekend that the Bucks will finally honor Johnson by retiring his famed number eight jersey on March 24 when Milwaukee hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The topic of Johnson having his number retired had long been atop of the wish list for all Bucks fans young and old, and queries regarding that had only increased in volume ever since the California native made his homecoming more than three years ago to join the team over at Fox Sports Wisconsin and serve as the full-time color analyst for Bucks broadcasts.

Rightfully so, obviously, as the combination of Johnson’s production throughout his seven years in Milwaukee (21 points on 53 percent shooting from the field, 7.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 524 appearances) and the individual accolades he garnered throughout his stay (four-time All-Star, three All-NBA selections) spoke for themselves.

Even after nearly 35 years since his rather abrupt departure from the Bucks as a player, Johnson’s standing in the franchise’s record books remains intact, considering he ranks sixth in points scored with 10,980, third in rebounds with 3,923, fourth in field goals made with 4,456, just to name a few categories.

Beyond that, the significance of Johnson’s playing career to the Bucks and the NBA still shines in various ways, whether we’re talking about how his arrival helped bridge the gap for the team following the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era or the point forward archetype he played a significant part in crafting under Nelson’s innovative reign.

In many ways, Johnson continues to serve as the link for the newer crop of Bucks fans who never got to witness that era of the team’s history by giving us insights about various details involving himself and the squad since making his return to the organization.

It’s that, along with the fact that Johnson handpicked the date of his jersey retirement in order to celebrate his mother’s 93rd birthday the following day as he told Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that will make that Sunday in late March a very special one for Johnson, the Bucks, and all the fans that will take in the ceremony on television and inside Fiserv Forum.

Yes, it’s been long overdue, but Johnson finally getting his due brings some much needed closure not only for him, but for the history of the franchise, as it makes it that much more whole by shining a light on someone who continues to play a special role for a Bucks fanbase that spans many generations at this point.

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There’s an old saying that you should never go back, that the past is the past and it can’t be conjured back up again. Well, if all of this proves anything, Marques Johnson is living, breathing proof that you can and he soon will get the deserving Bucks tribute that proved elusive for far too long.