By Zach Griffith | @ZachGriffith17
Sports Capital Journalism Program
MINNEAPOLIS – When the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced here this weekend, former Milwaukee Bucks teammates Sidney Moncrief and Jack Sikma said they will be honored to enter the Hall with one another in September.
“Oh, it’s special,” said Moncrief, who played with Sikma in Milwaukee from 1986 to 1990. “Jack came late in my career but since we were both professionals. The way we played and approached the game, it was seamless. It was very nice to hear that he was part of this group this year.”
Moncrief, a five-time NBA All-Star, won the league’s first two Defensive Player of the Year awards and had his number retired by the Bucks in 1990. Upon being named to the Hall, Moncrief marveled at the NCAA tournament and looked back on his 1978 Final Four experience with Arkansas.
“One thing I would say is Final Four basketball is the ultimate,” said Moncrief. “There’s nothing like it. You could take the NBA playoffs, but there’s nothing like playing in the Final Four. We played at the Checkerdome in St. Louis. Kentucky, Duke, Notre Dame, Arkansas. I just remember going out. There was so much energy in the air and so much smoke because back then you could smoke in arenas. It was a tremendous experience, beyond coughing all the time. But there’s nothing like Final Four basketball. I still have memories of those days.”
Sikma, a five-time All-Star and the only center in NBA history to lead the league in single-season free throw percentage, was glad to go in with Moncrief and lauded former Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl’s efforts to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee.
“I’m very happy to go in with Sidney,” said Sikma. “Sidney was there and that was a transition to Senator Kohl’s ownership, and I was there during his ownership. I had experience in Seattle when you think of what happened to that team (so) the fact that Senator Kohl stood for them and made sure it was figured out in Milwaukee and keep that team there and he’s due a lot of accolades for how he handled himself.”
Sikma reflected on his days with the Seattle SuperSonics and the impact of Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens.
“Yes, I was drafted in in ‘77, and Seattle had made the playoffs before but hadn’t established themselves,” Sikma said. “I just remember coming into the organization and focusing on basketball. We started off 5-17 my rookie year, and they made a coaching change to Lenny Wilkens, and of course, Lenny’s record speaks for itself. One of the greatest, both on the court, off the court, and what he’s done for the game. He grabbed a couple other young guys and put them in the starting lineup with myself, Dennis Johnson, who’s a fellow Hall of Famer, and Gus Williams. Marvin Webster was a new guy, and all of a sudden, we figured it out, and we finished the season 12 games over .500 and won a couple playoff series and found ourselves in the finals.”
Moncrief and Sikma also commented on what it would mean to them if the Bucks were able to win the title this season.
“Milwaukee’s rolling,” said Moncrief. “They are fun to watch, I get excited, and I don’t get excited about a lot of teams in the NBA. But I love the way they play, Giannis [Antetokounmpo] is the best player in the NBA hands-down. He’s dominating, he knows how to play, he’s old school with how he prepares and how he approaches the game. I love the Milwaukee Bucks, I love them.”
Moncrief also praised the Milwaukee fans, highlighting their patience over the years.
“I would just be happy…once a Buck, always a Buck. The fans of Milwaukee, they’ve been so patient throughout the years since Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and Oscar [Robertson] and Johnny Mack [Jon McGlocklin] won it. So it would mean a lot for me because it would mean a lot for the city of Milwaukee to finally get another championship.”
Sikma, who works as a consultant for the Toronto Raptors, is rooting for the Bucks only to a certain extent.
“Sure, but let’s put it this way,” Sikma said. “I’m rooting for both teams until the conference finals, and then we’ll just kind of see what happens.”