Milwaukee Bucks Parade, Celebration
Crowd estimated in excess of 100,000.
“Milwaukee, we did it baby!”
Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo took center stage at a celebration of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA championship on Thursday afternoon. But to get to the ceremony, held in an empty lot just north of Fiserv Forum, he first had to roll through Downtown atop a double-decker bus.
A caravan of vehicles, including five buses with open-air roof decks, set off from the intersection of N. Prospect Ave. and E. Wisconsin Ave. just after 11 a.m. By 12:30 p.m. they had finally arrived at the celebration ceremony, with tens of thousands of parade watchers following them on foot.
Using a screen setup left over from Tuesday’s night watch party, the players, coaches, executives and dignitaries took the stage to cheers from a crowd that continued to swell in size throughout the nearly 45-minute ceremony.
“It’s still a dream,” said starting center Brook Lopez. A Disney fanatic, he compared the team’s run to the plot of the Mighty Ducks movie series and pledged to take the championship trophy to Disney World.
“It’s been a long time coming, lots of ups and downs, but we finally got the job done,” said starting small forward Khris Middleton. “We never pointed fingers. We never quit on each other.”
Middleton and Antetokounmpo are the lone players left from the team’s disastrous, 15-win 2013-2014 season. Following that season, Herb Kohl sold the team to a new ownership group led by Wesley Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan.
Dinan said the team fulfilled former guard Brandon Jennings‘s 2013 prophecy of winning in six games. Jennings was one of the guests on a parade float. Other floats held dozens of team employees and the players’ families.
Tucker, drenched head to toe in champagne, said he knew the team had it in them when he arrived via a mid-season trade. An aggressive defender, he told event emcee Zora Stephenson that he just needed to bring the “dogs” out of the team. Bucks employees on parade floats held up signs saying “we dogs.”
Portis, wearing a wrestling championship belt, took in chants of “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” while holding the championship trophy.
Jrue Holiday, acquired in a major off-season trade, thanked the city for welcoming his family and pledged to work to bring home another championship next season.
“You really are the best fans in the world and I will forever be thankful to you,” said injured starter Donte DiVincenzo.
General manager Jon Horst and coach Mike Budenholzer also spoke, as did Governor Tony Evers, County Executive David Crowley and Mayor Tom Barrett. Prominent ticket holders, including David Gruber, Jon Hammes, Craig Karmazin and Ted Kellner, could be spotted atop one of the buses alongside Bucks executives Matt Pazaras and Dustin Godsey.
Evers drew boos from a corner of the crowd before he could take the microphone, but spoke about the championship’s importance to the entire state.
Crowley thanked Kohl for his commitment to keeping the team in Wisconsin and the union workers that built it.
Barrett, wearing an unlicensed Bucks shirt with no team or NBA logos, praised the team for bringing the city together. “They are the unifier,” he said.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the last speaker and spoke extensively about his family, including his late father. “I know my mom is extremely proud. I know my dad is extremely proud. I’m happy,” he told the crowd.
Ben Tajnai, who sang the national anthem at every home playoff game, closed the ceremony by singing a rendition of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” while fireworks were launched from atop the arena.
The crowd not only filled the block, 420 W. Juneau Ave., but the surrounding streets and plaza outside the arena.
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