Milwaukee Bucks: Imagining a documentary on the early 1970s Bucks

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 5, 1974: (Photo by Ron Kuntz Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 5, 1974: (Photo by Ron Kuntz Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks' Oscar Robertson
NEW YORK, N.Y.-NOVEMBER 17, 1973:  (Photo by Ross Lewis/Getty Images) /

Shape of the Bucks’ roster

The big pieces of the Bucks’ championship-winning core, like Abdul-Jabbar, Dandridge and Robertson, were all still in place entering the 1973-74 season.

The same went for integral rotation players such as Lucius Allen, who was essential to keeping Robertson fresh in what was his age-35 season as he had 41,409 minutes under his belt going into the 73-74 year, and “Mr. Buck” himself, Jon McGlocklin, who maintained a complementary role at 30 years old.

But in a quest to get younger and add more size as this era of Bucks basketball went on, Milwaukee’s depth contributors didn’t offer up the same level of veteran contributors, in the vein of Bob Boozer or McCoy McLemore, that could rise up to the moment from that championship-winning season.

Only Dick Cunningham remained from the 70-71 season from a bench and depth perspective, and he only appeared in eight games during the 73-74 campaign due to injury.

To maintain the longevity of this window, the Bucks, under general manager Wayne Embry, did what he felt was right to put the best team out on the court. However, the fact that the Bucks didn’t essentially run it back with the championship-winning squad unsurprisingly rankled Robertson as he talked about in a feature centering on Boozer and McLemore following their respective deaths:

"“I could never figure out why the Bucks broke our team up after we won the championship,” Robertson said. “If they wanted to go big, they could have brought Boozer in, they could have brought McCoy McLemore in, they could have brought Dick Cunningham in. “I remember telling people we’d continue to win games, but we’d never win the championship again because they hurt the core of our team. When you win as a team, you should be allowed to play out until somebody beats you. We beat ourselves. I will always believe that.”"

Abdul-Jabbar echoed that sentiment in the same piece, though in his more stoic nature:

"“We were able to go to our second team and still be able to keep the offensive pressure on the teams that we played,” he said. “We were a pretty deep team that had a good defensive element to the way we played. That’s why we won that world championship. “That was so long ago that I guess that the great teams that have been around since then have kind of overshadowed that team. And unfortunately, that team was only together for a year. But that was a great team — one of my favorites.”"

To be fair, Boozer had retired after the title-winning season to end his 11-year NBA career on a high note. But the release of McLemore as well as the midseason trade of starting forward Greg Smith certainly reinforced Robertson and Abdul-Jabbar’s point in that regard.

Still, Embry’s mission to inject some more youth into the Bucks around this time couldn’t solve the core problems facing the durability of their core players like The Big O, who had suffered numerous groin and muscle-related injuries over his four seasons in Milwaukee.

Of course, Abdul-Jabbar remained as potent as ever, as evidenced by winning his third Most Valuable Player award in four years following the 1973-74 regular season, while Dandridge’s dependability and versatility was crucial.

And while many faces and names changed on the Bucks’ bench, they still held a variety of size, athleticism and some shooting to supplement their core players under the spotlight. The question would be whether the Bucks had the dependable depth they needed when the time mattered most.