Wisconsin's first NBA team
They put into words what fans can see with their eyes. At least, the ones who actually show up at Milwaukee Bucks games.
The Journal/Sentinel detailed Wednesday just how bad things have gotten attendance-wise at the Bradley Center. "Announced" crowds of 11, 12 or 13 thousand that look to be about half that. It's accounting sleight-of-hand that keeps us from knowing the true number of butts in the seats as opposed to tickets actually "dispersed" but the bottom line is this: the local pro basketball team is the second-worst draw in the NBA. Only the Philadelphia 76ers play in front of more empty seats.
That's what happens when you win just seven times in 40 tries, when you take a nine-game skid into your upcoming clash with Detroit Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, when you haven't won a game in a new year turning 22 days old as of tonight's tip-off.
Longtime Bucks fans are wincing as they watch the team flounder but this is a franchise with far more success than failure. There's only one NBA title banner in the rafters but Milwaukee has more often than not been a playoff fixture if not a championship contender.
The Bucks are not the state's first pro hoop team. That honor goes to the long-defunct Sheboygan Red Skins who were National Basketball League fixtures in the 40's before lasting one season in the brand new NBA, it's inaugural 1949-50 campaign.
Hard to believe there was a time when the Boston Celtics played at the Sheboygan Armory, along with the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) and the Minneapolis Lakers (yep, THOSE Lakers). They would beat George Mikan and that season's eventual champs 85-82 in front of a packed house the night of January 5, 1950 and would go 22-40 that one and only season before withdrawing to a smaller league. The Red Skins would be gone in two more years. Their coach that one and only NBA season, Ken Suesens, would stay in Sheboygan and go on to become the golf pro at Pine Hills Country Club.
The Armory now sits idle and its future is in doubt, Sheboygan wondering if the building is worth saving while the Red Skins are relegated to pro hoop reference web sites. The Bucks remain alive, playing in front of modest gatherings as Milwaukee wonders if it has the stomach, cash and wherewithal to build the franchise a new home. The downturn in fortunes couldn't be happening at a worst time in franchise history--shoddy play put the team off most people's radars at a time when passion could help fuel the push for the arena, or at least spark a debate.
The Bucks may have to bottom out first, land a top draft choice and revive the pro hoop spark that once as as certain as January cold and snow in years past.
A spark that burned brightly for Wisconsin's SECOND National Basketball Association team.