(We’re counting down the best 20 Bucks since 1991 over the next few weeks. It’s something to do with the lockout sucking the life out of NBA fans. We continue with number 11. Brandon Jennings. Yes, things are about to get all kinds of recent over here. Finally. No more languishing through the dregs of the early 90’s. You’re going to remember everyone from here on out. Hopefully. – Jeremy)
If you haven’t noticed, there has been a lot of negativity in our countdown so far. And for good reason, the Bucks simply haven’t had very many talented players in the past 20 years. And with a lack of talent came a lack of wins. The Bucks won 672 games and lost a whopping 916 since the 1991-92 season, good for a 42.3 percent winning percentage. Taking those numbers into account, you can understand how rough it was to come up with these rankings.
Along with the negativity, all of the players on this list so far outside of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are no longer with the team. Their tenures with the Bucks are over and their legacies are set. They all had some hand in at least a few of those 916 losses. While Brandon Jennings did too, he is still a Buck. There is still a hope that he will rise past this ranking. Hope is a word you don’t often hear around this team. One thing Jennings has done since entering the league is to give Milwaukee just that. Finally the fans had a brash competitor to get behind. There was something to cheer about again.
Befitting his unique personality, Jennings took an unconventional route to the NBA. With the Stern-imposed age limit in place, there was no way for him to jump right into the league. But instead of going to college for a year, he decided to study abroad. Jennings certainly struggled in Italy, but I am confident his time with Lottomatica Roma prepared him to play professional basketball stateside.
After all, he flew out of the gates in his rookie season. Earning the starting gig from day one, Jennings came up one rebound and one assist short of a triple double in his first regular season game. In his Bradley Center debut one night later, he dropped 24 points on 60 percent shooting. Exactly two weeks after that, the Golden State Warriors came to town. On that night, Jennings gave us quite possibly the most memorable Bucks moment of the last 20 years.
All of a sudden, the Bucks were on SportsCenter. T-shirts plastered with Jennings’ face were printed. One 55-point game brought a palpable excitement to the Bucks. This was a feeling not felt around the team since the run to the Eastern Conference Finals. One 55-point game and all of a sudden Bucks fans had hope.
We rode the Jennings rollercoaster for the rest of the season. One game he went for 18 points and five assists against the Pistons, only to follow that up with 7 and 3 against the Nets the very next game. But throughout the ride, we watched with rapt attention every time Jennings took the court.
Then came the monocle celebration, the red mohawk, the cries of Fear the Deer and, finally, the playoffs. Jennings certainly didn’t do it alone, but no player on that team had his swagger. No player on that team held the fan’s attention like he did. With Bogut out, all eyes were on Jennings for the opening round against the Atlanta Hawks. Although they would inevitably bow out early, those three home playoff games seemingly reawakened the city of Milwaukee’s love for the Bucks. Jennings was at the center of it all.
Maybe Jennings will never become the perfect point guard. Maybe he will be traded within the next couple of years. Maybe he will flame out completely. But maybe he will become an all star. Maybe he will team with Andrew Bogut to take the Bucks past the first round. Maybe he will be in Milwaukee for the rest of his career. With Jennings comes hope. And that is really all you can ask for as a Bucks fan these days.
Josh Hilgendorf is a contributor to Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.