Bucks Diary

Sunday, February 17, 2008

1977 NBA All-Star Game in Milwaukee: The Doctor was In

One of the more memorable NBA All-Star games ever played took place on February 13, 1977 at the old Milwaukee Arena (aka The MECCA). It was the first All-Star game following the merger between the NBA and the ABA. And since the ABA had no national television contract, the game was the platform for ABA legend Julius "Dr. J" Erving's introduction to a wider national audience.

Erving took full advantage of the opportunity, dominating the game, scoring 30 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, and demonstrating high-flying moves fans of the established NBA had rarely seen before. You can see for yourself. Or, for a better version, go here and scroll down to the 1977 All-Star game and click on "Top 10 highlights from the 1977 All-Star game". (Bucks fans from the 1980s will get a nostalgic feeling watching these clips. They feature the unmistakable high angle perspective we used to get watching televised Bucks home games in that era. I believe it was caused by the lack of room at the old Arena for court level cameras).

The Doctor in Bucks "Traveling Greens"

The '77 game was one of the last ones to feature a cool All-Star tradition I wish they would have kept. Both teams at that time would wear All-Star variations of the host team's Home and Away uniforms. (Here and here and here are some examples). For the '77 game the Western Conference players wore the Bucks "Home Whites" and the Eastern Conference wore the "Traveling Greens" (the Bucks were in the Western Conference at the time). Thus the game provided Bucks fans with a vision of what might have been: Kareem and Dr. J together in Green and Red. (The Bucks drafted the Doctor in 1972, but instead of wearing Green and Red, Julius decided to play for the ABA's New York Nets and, before that, the Virginia Squires. The NBA championships we could have had, Antlerheads!).

Is the original feed lost?

A couple of years ago NBA.tv had an All-Star Game marathon, starting with the 1970 All-Star game. Unfortunately, for some aggrevating reason, the marathon skipped the '77 game. I was so pissed. Thus the highlight link above is the only footage of the game I've ever seen.

When's the next one, Mr. Commissioner?

What about another NBA All-Star weekend in Milwaukee? That would be cool (albeit a bit dangerous). I know the baseball All-Star game was fun when it was here... at least the surrounding festivities were (the game... not so much).

But when will we get another one? We've waited long enough. Since the last one played in Beer City -- 31 years ago last Wednesday -- no fewer than six NBA cities have hosted two All-Star games a piece -- Los Angeles, Washington, Cleveland, Houston, Denver... and Atlanta!

If Atlanta (home of the routinely half-filled Phillips Arena) has earned two games, we most certainly deserve at least one. Come on, Dave. Pony up and give MKE another round.


At February 17, 2008 at 9:41 PM, Anonymous paulpressey25 said...

That was a great link to those highlights....somewhere in that crowd background at the Mecca was a 10-year old PaulPressey25 and his father....my Dad scored the tickets two days earlier from a business colleague. I still remember most of that day...it was great because you had all those new ABA stars in the game as well.

What I had forgotten is that the Robert Indiana Mecca floor design was not yet in place at that time.

It was also great to hear Frank Charles organ playing in the background.

LeRoy Neiman did a special painting for that game called Basketball Superstars that graced the cover of the program and can be seen in reverse image at this link:


At February 17, 2008 at 10:05 PM, Blogger TCW said...

That was a sweet comment and link, Pressey! Thanks for the memories.

There are three things I think I remember about the old Arena (I haven't been in there since the Bucks stopped playing games there).

One, the "train depot" style ticket windows they had inside the doors (you had to walk up a row of steps to get to them and to get to the seating area). Two, the fact that the floor was below ground level, so you usually had to walk down to your seats. Three, those huge hanging lights that lit the seating area. When they turned them off just before tipoff they would make a dramatic popping sound like old school cameras.

Great memories. When the Bucks were THE BUCKS, huh?

At February 17, 2008 at 10:49 PM, Anonymous paulpressey25 said...

I'm going to start turning into an old man, but the Arena was just much better. I do remember the train station ticket windows.

The amazing thing is that when you sit in the Arena now, you realize how damn small and intimate the place is. With those old stuffed cushion stadium seats, it was a comfortable place to watch the game. Not a bad seat anywhere.

Walk upstairs to the upper level concourse on each end.....the hallway must be only ten feet wide with maybe one or two at most vending stands.

I'd still like the Bucks to bring back an organ player in lieu of Streetlife next year. The guy doesn't have to play all the time, but I miss that.

I know what you are saying about the court being below street level. The lockerrooms were as well. The best part was the lack of security in Mecca days. As the game ended, I'd always hang out in front of the visitors lockerroom door. You'd meet a ton of players that way and be able to interact with all of them. No groupies....no security....just the real guys as they walked off the court.

One night I sat and talked with Kevin Loughery when he was coaching the Bulls. After the game he just wanted to sit outside the locker-room and chill out while the players finished dressing. There was no security....no entourage....no reduced access....I just sat outside the visiting lockerroom and talked about the game with Kevin.....then he went back in and yelled at the team to hurry up....and up the concourse ramp they scurried to get on the bus back to Chicago.

At February 18, 2008 at 10:54 AM, Blogger Buy The Bucks said...

Looks like it will be a while before the All Star game comes to Milwaukee. The NBA has a hotel restriction and apparently Milwaukee doesn't currently have enough rooms.


At February 18, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

The MLB all star game came to Milwaukee and I'm pretty sure everybody had a place to stay that night. Stupid hotel restrictions.

At February 18, 2008 at 6:45 PM, Blogger TCW said...

The dude from Buy the Bucks!! That is a sweet site. Did you know it was mentioned, I think I saw it on JSonline.

So we have to get more hotel rooms to get the All-Star game? That sucks.

Are they counting the lovely Hotel Wisconsin?

At March 6, 2008 at 2:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TCW. The '77 All-Star game is available if you are interested. It's actually joined in the 2nd quarter as that is all that exists. Drop me a line at slipkid69@wi.rr.com if you are interested.

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