Milwaukee Bucks: With call to Hall of Fame, Sidney Moncrief achieves timelessness

BOSTON - 1987: (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON - 1987: (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images) /

On the day of his long awaited induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame, we reflect on Sidney Moncrief’s legendary Milwaukee Bucks tenure and the significance of what it means for a playing career that unfortunately ended far too soon.

Throughout the 52 years of Milwaukee Bucks basketball, many special players have passed through the organization.

Legends of the game like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson arguably still headline the long list of players that have donned a Bucks uniform over the years, but there are other players that have been synonymous with certain eras of Bucks basketball, such as Marques Johnson or what we’re currently seeing with superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Still, nobody surpasses Sidney Moncrief in that regard.

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After a lengthy wait in regard to hearing his name be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, Moncrief is set to be enshrined in Springfield Friday night as part of this year’s class, fulfilling the last remaining hole in his illustrious NBA resume.

It’s obviously been a long time coming for the former Razorback, who is nearly three decades removed from hanging it up following the 1990-91 season, which stood as the one-year comeback that he made as a member of the Atlanta Hawks after retiring in the previous campaign.

It’s Moncrief’s 10 star-studded seasons with the Bucks, though, that have serve as the basis behind why the Little Rock native will join the most hallowed names throughout NBA history, some of those being his peers throughout the 1980s.

Those same peers such as Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, as well as teammates like Junior Bridgeman, Terry Cummings, Marques Johnson and Paul Pressey have the enduring respect of Moncrief for the way he carried himself as a relentless worker on and off the court, which has become the defining trait of Moncrief’s legacy well after his playing days.

Equally, Moncrief’s long-standing coach in Milwaukee, Don Nelson, sung Moncrief’s praises throughout and called him one of the best players he coached in his Hall of Fame career heading into his own induction back in 2012.

Moncrief’s incredible motor, intelligence and drive to be great permeated through every aspect of his game to the point where he sported meaningful improvements throughout his vast array of skills and abilities to become a wholly complete player.

That shouldn’t diminish how extraordinary an athlete Moncrief was at the peak of his powers as he possessed a blazing first step that helped him cruise by opposing defenders, a chiseled body that helped him defend bigger players in the post, and an explosive leaping ability that he regularly employed to rise up for jaw-dropping dunks and putback slams.

The end result made Moncrief one of the most decorated players throughout the 1980s by having five All-Star appearances, five All-NBA selections, four All-Defensive First Team honors and two Defensive Player of the Year awards to his name.

On top of that, Moncrief made the playoffs in each and every year of his Bucks tenure, won seven straight division titles between 1979-80 to 1985-86 and compiled a 522-298 record (a 63.6 winning percentage) during those 10 seasons as my co-site expert Adam McGee touched on in his own piece looking back on Moncrief’s greatness a couple of years ago.

And to think, there was a chance that Moncrief wouldn’t have reached the immense highs that he experienced at the height of his powers. It may be a little dramatic to portray Moncrief’s career as a race against time, but a degenerative knee condition known as chrondromalacia hung over the famed no. 4’s playing career upon making the jump to the NBA in the summer of 1979.

While one early prognosis stating that he would only reach two seasons in the NBA proved to be well off the mark, Moncrief was cognizant of the shelf life of playing through such a condition and wanting to maintain such a demanding, high level style of play during his career as he told Sam McManis of the Los Angeles Times back in February of 1986:

"“It is nothing you can predict,” Moncrief said of his knee problems. “You try to keep it under control. I’d like to play as long as I can at a high level, but I’ll probably only last until I’m 30 or 31. I want to go out, No. 1, in the best shape health-wise, and No. 2, financially.”"

Moncrief’s knee issues, as well as the wear and tear he accrued over the years, which did limit his availability at key moments such as the 1986 postseason, eventually caught up to him not long after his personal forecast regarding his playing future. Not only did Moncrief’s minutes workload diminish significantly from the 1986-87 season onward, but that year, he only made 39 regular season appearances and 56 appearances that following campaign.

By then, Moncrief’s decline was too much to overcome for both he and the Bucks and while some of the fixtures from some of their most successful teams from that decade remained, such as Cummings and Pressey, the Bucks could never reach the same heights as they themselves slowly started to bridge into a new era. Although Moncrief still stood at the forefront of the Bucks’ foundation and was still his efficient self in a far more limited role during his career twilight, the weight of his physical decline led to him initially hanging it up at the end of the 1988-89 season.

As we saw in the years and decades since Moncrief transitioned into his post-playing career, the amount of injuries that piled up for Moncrief and ultimately led to his deterioration as something of an athletic iron man robbed him of the same longevity that his most memorable peers and rivals experienced.

The ripple effects of that clearly affected Moncrief’s place in reflecting back on what was such a transformative era of the league, but also his Hall of Fame bid as his omission became increasingly more glaring with the years going by without him getting the call.

Thankfully, all of the debates, the outcry and championing over whether Moncrief was deserving of his name being in the Hall of Fame have fallen by the wayside with him finally getting his overdue day in the sun and cementing his legacy as one of the best all-around and most valuable players of his time (Moncrief still ranks first in Value Over Replacement Player, or VORP, in franchise history, per

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And no longer will Moncrief stand as an overlooked relic of his time and his name and career legacy will be among the most prestigious names to ever play the game, in the place where he’s always belonged.