Milwaukee Bucks: Bobby Portis and the hero’s journey

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 20: (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 20: (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

When it came down to it, the Milwaukee Bucks needed Bobby Portis as much as Portis needed the Bucks.

It was only a week ago that Portis put in a much-needed 16-point performance that helped push the Bucks over the top of the Phoenix Suns in this year’s NBA Finals. That showing was indicative of what Portis brought to the Bucks all year long, all of which has made him a beloved figure among Bucks fans.

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When the Bucks signed Portis during the heat of their high-profile and polarizing offseason late last year, it would have been hard to conceive of the adoration and positive impact Portis has given to Milwaukee throughout this title run.

Much of that is a reflection on Portis’ career trajectory rather than the skill set he had fine tuned over his NBA career before arriving to Milwaukee. There was the high-profile punching incident between Portis and Nikola Mirotic that followed Portis as he increasingly bounced around the league and jumped to poor-to-middling teams in quick succession.

As Portis talked about in his postgame press conference after the Bucks won the title, the stars aligned on multiple fronts upon coming to Milwaukee, all of which helped him recalibrate what he wanted out of his career at such a critical time:

"“I knew (Milwaukee) was the right place when I made the decision. Before free agency, the Knicks turned down my team option and they wanted to sign me to another deal and it was nice money. But I wasn’t really worried about the money. Sometimes, money isn’t everything and it’s about happiness. That’s one thing that guys taught me as a rookie.I found happiness here when I first got here. I felt welcome, I felt loved. The guys made me at home, the coaches made me feel very comfortable. Nice place, easy system for me to fit in. I get to be myself everyday, just be energetic. Guys on my team are quiet guys. There’s not many guys like me that are outgoing and really bring what I bring to the table in energy, things like that. I thought it was a match made in heaven. Whether I’m making shots or missing shots, I got out there and give 110 percent to the team. I put my body on the line everyday. I sacrifice and being around these guys has taught me a lot. I’ve learned how to win and I haven’t won in a long time, but it sure feels good now.”"

Bobby Portis served his purpose to the Milwaukee Bucks as he contemplates his future

For as much as Portis got out of it, between a career year in terms of his sparkling shooting efficiency at 11.4 points per game on a 59.8 true shooting percentage and 47.1 percent shooting from three, it didn’t come without sacrifice just as he mentioned. Portis averaged 20.8 minutes per game throughout the regular season and his role during the Bucks’ showdown with the Brooklyn Nets during the Conference Semifinals saw him become a DNP-CD for the final three games of that series.

That didn’t dissuade or disengage Portis from being an impact contributor as he truly saved some of his best performances of the season during the Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks or in the Finals against the Suns. All while soaking in the love and adoration given from the Milwaukee faithful.

With a championship ring and banner soon to follow, Portis achieved exactly everything he envisioned upon coming to Milwaukee less than a year ago and followed down the path of the hero’s journey a la Joseph Campbell. He came to Milwaukee looking for something to prove, both that he’s a winning player and capturing a title, wound up having to sacrifice far more than he had to previously and came out of the other end changed and reborn.

Now Portis will soon make a decision on his future and his $3.8 million player option, which he will surely turn down. As he talked about on his recent appearance on the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, this upcoming week is a certainly big one for Portis as he considers such a significant decision and free agency:

"“I don’t really know what’s going to happen right now. Taking some time off with my family and my little brothers, hanging out with them. Trying to get my mind right and off of all of that right now and get back to it in a couple of days. Obviously, though, we don’t have a lot of time to play this game of basketball. We want to make the most money we can to build generational wealth for our kids and families down the line. And this is one of the biggest decisions I have to make.”"

Milwaukee certainly has their hands tied to what they can offer when he likely turns down his player option as they most they can offer is their $5.8 million mid-level exception. Recent reports indicate to that the Bucks may be preparing to search for a Portis in free agency, whether that’s Jeff Green or someone that fits that profile of a big floor spacer to fill out their frontcourt.

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As Bucks fans brace for Portis’ potential departure in free agency, they do so knowing Portis came to Milwaukee with a purpose that has since been fulfilled. And it will forever tie Portis to Milwaukee and the Bucks moving forward.