Milwaukee Bucks: Meet the 1980s All-Decade Team

MILWAUKEE, WI - CIRCA 1986: (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - CIRCA 1986: (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks, Marques Johnson
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – MARCH 24: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Milwaukee Bucks: Meet the 1980s All-Decade Team – Marques Johnson

Our first Bucks player to cross two different decades and it’s only fitting as there have been few Bucks players in the history of the franchise quite like Marques Johnson.

By the turn of the 1980s, Johnson had proven himself as one of the NBA’s most extraordinary talents who was able to shoulder anything and everything that was asked of him. That famously included Nelson asking Johnson to lessen his scoring average in order to make the Bucks a more complete, dynamic team that had threats across multiple positions, especially with players like Moncrief waiting in the wings.

That change suited the former Bruin as his all-around skill set shined even brighter as he went on to earn multiple All-Star berths, two All-NBA second team selections while the Bucks rose from a fiery upstart to a perennial contender. And for a time, Johnson was thought of in the realm of legends such as Julius Erving as Nelson talked about to John Papanek of Sports Illustrated in November of 1980:

"“Doc’s the Doc,” says Bucks Coach Don Nelson. “But Marques is the best all-round. We ask him to do more and he does do more. I never want to limit his abilities to one or two areas. There’s no doubt I could get 30 points a night from him if I went to him more. But he’s got to work his butt off on the D, so I limit him to 35 minutes or so. I could play him at guard if I wanted to, he’s that versatile. Sometimes in practice I do.”"

It was through Johnson where Nelson’s many innovations to the game of basketball were first rooted, whether it was utilizing Johnson as a point forward or building ‘Nellie Ball’ by slotting Johnson down the lineup and spending time playing the 5-role within the Bucks’ switching defensive scheme.

On the other hand, Johnson’s Bucks stint was mired by some controversy, whether it was holding out for a new contract at the start of the 1981-82 season and going as far as asking for a trade to a team willing to give him what he was seeking.

That all came to a head a month before the start of the 1984-85 season when Johnson, along with Junior Bridgeman and Harvey Catchings, were dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Terry Cummings, Craig Hodges and Ricky Pierce. Johnson eventually went on to earn a fifth and final All-Star berth with the Clippers, but his career was never the same following a neck injury he suffered early on in the 1986-87 season and eventually retired after a brief comeback a few years later in 1990.

Despite how Johnson’s time in Milwaukee may have ended for him as a player, the forward has spawned a new generation of Bucks fans as he currently serves as a color analyst for Fox Sports Wisconsin. And his No. 8 jersey was finally immortalized late in the 2018-19 season, becoming the ninth Bucks player to have their jersey retired by the organization.

Over his 524 appearances with the Bucks, Johnson averaged 21 points on .530/.145/.736 shooting splits, 7.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals across 34.8 minutes per contests.