The immortal tandem of Blue Edwards and Brad Lohaus represented the Milwaukee Bucks in the original NBA Jam They weren’t particularly apt at three of the four things required to win at NBA Jam: shooting threes, dunking, or requiring the assistance of firemen. Computer-controlled Lohaus was great at the fourth thing: getting conspicuous no-calls on defense. They were essentially the worst team in the game.
The real life Bucks around that time weren’t much better. In the 1991-92 season, the Bucks missed the playoffs for the first time since 1979. Two seasons later, they’d bottom out with a 20-62 record. Since then, the Bucks haven’t been that bad, but they’ve been pretty mediocre with flashes of hope every now and then.
It’s the flashes of hope that this next Bucksketball series is dedicated too. The 20 best Bucks since 1991, compiled, organized and written about for your reading pleasure. The list is mostly filled with guys that tantalized and teased us with potential, but never fully delivered and guys that just busted their asses off with everything they had which was never enough. There are a few genuine greats near the end though.
I’m not going to lie. This list is underwhelming. Sometimes you might think, “Why’d they put him so high!” But then you’ll look back over the last 20 years and realize, “Oh, that’s why.” Personally, I still can’t believe Ervin Johnson is as high as he is, but then again, I don’t know where else to put him.
Disclaimer: this list isn’t perfect. It was formed by guys who might have a bias or two and misremembered a play here or there. It’ll come as no surprise that the list skews heavily toward the much loved Light it up! Light it up! teams at the turn of the millennium. If you don’t think Benoit Benjamin got his due, then speak up. We’d love your comments! Share your rankings too. Keep it civil.
The following list is full of a few honorable mentions. These five guys aren’t necessarily the next best five. They’re just random guys that are definitely in the top 40. In no particular order:
Terrell Brandon was born with crooked legs. He’s also a two-time All-Star. He once graced the cover of Sports Illustrated along with the words, “The Best Point Guard in the NBA.” And at one point, he had an absurd 6.14-to-1 turnover ratio.
None of those things happened when he was with the Bucks.
His nickname, “The Lone Ranger” originated from a propensity to stick to himself. That attitude only fueled rumors that he didn’t want to be a Buck. He was only one of many.
Brandon was brought in a three team trade along with Tyrone Hill and a first round pick that turned into Pat Garrity. That trade marked the departure of Vin Baker and Sherman Douglas. He left in the same fashion, departing with Elliot Perry to bring in Sam Cassell, Paul Grant and Chris Gatling.
Bucks Totals: 65 games, 1044 pts, 491 assists, 181 turnovers
Luke Ridnour is fondly remembered by a lot of people. I don’t know why. Yes, the Bucks struggled to score after he left. No, it wasn’t because he left.
(Obligatory statement that his defense is garbage).
Ridnour was a microwave. He could be counted on to score points in bunches when no one else could. He really did make Brandon Jennings rookie year much easier. He ate up minutes that needed to be filled and he did so ably. Plus, Jennings confidence must have skyrocketed after practice of crushing Ridnour.
Bucks totals: 154 games, 1540 points, 689 assists
Joe Smith will never quit this game! Last seen riding the Lakers bench late into last season, Smith continues his quest to play one minute for every NBA team. Actually, that’s not true, but it is a great idea. He’s already played for 12 teams, why not go for it?
Smith has a knack for showing up either too late or too early to the party. For the Bucks, it was too late. Smith was one of the pieces exchanged for Cassell and EJ over to the Timberwolves which spurred a short stint of playoff success in Minnesota. Smith brought more woe with him to Milwaukee, but he performed just like the rest of the honorable mentions: ably.
Bucks totals: 194 games, 2022 points, 1414 rebounds
Darvin Ham is the sixth player to have his name called in the 2001 version of the immortal Light it Up! Light it Up! song (poor quality video, if someone finds a good version, inform me immediately). Objectively, this makes him the sixth best player in the history of the franchise. But as previously mentioned, this list is filled with biases influenced by playing time, statistics and what happened on the court.
Every Prince Fielder at-bat reminds me of every Ham drive down the lane: do whatever you’re doing as hard as you can with as much reckless abandon as possible. The philosophy behind this approach is that it will inevitably lead to good times. I dig that philosophy.
Bucks totals: 134 games, 589 points, 294.5 dunks
Bango was disqualified from consideration in the top 20 due to the fact that he isn’t a player. Sometimes I wish someone would use Air Bud logic(there’s no rule that says he can’t play!) because Bango can really throw it down. And isn’t that the only reason that Dan Gadzuric ever got playing time.
Bango is awesome and is consistently among the 5 most exciting Bucks year in and year out. After tearing his ACL at the 2009 All-Star game, Bango came back with a vengeance the next season. He’s thrown down insane dunks, attacked multiple Atlanta Hawks fans, saved the Energee! dancers and handily won the mascot of the year award. Statistically, it was the greatest season a mascot’s ever submitted as he finished the season with a 41.7 MER (Mascot Efficiency Rating) which is calculated as such:
(Dance moves that’d make Kevin Bacon Jealous x (Combined Height of Dunks + Number of Flips)^Miles of Smiles))/Opposing fans Accosted.
Place your own honorable mentions below.
Ian Segovia is a contributor to Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.