The Brockness Monster seemed destined for cult heroism before he even played a minute in Milwaukee.
This month we'll be running a series of SB Nation theme posts across the network, starting with today's post on the NBA's cult heroes.
Leave the superstars to their MVP trophies, gold medals and fawning cover stories. Who needs 'em? (Shhh, don't answer that)
Today we debate, dissect and celebrate the other end of the spectrum: the unheralded difference-makers, the garbagemen, and the human victory cigars. In short, the NBA's cult heroes.
Often, the line between benchwarmer and cult favorite is fine at best and completely blurred at worst. Sure, you can throw starters and higher profile rotation players in there occasionally, but the DNA of the fan favorite is generally altogether different from what we'd hope for from our superstars and franchise building blocks.
And while the qualities of these players vary considerably, certain traits tend to crop up much more frequently. Generally, rebounders and hustlers are more lovable than scorers, and anyone you expect to be good (read: lottery picks and big money signings) finds the chips stacked against their cult success. Sure, being ugly, unathletic, scrappy, awkward, unheralded and white won't do anything for a player's lottery stock or endorsement checks, but those traits have a statistically significant correlation with capturing fans' affection. Yes, I've run all the regression analysis to back it up...in my mind at least.
And speaking of statistics, we're checking our usual number-crunching instincts at the door, as they have no place in any conversation about the NBA's cult heroes. Despite our best efforts, there is still no metric for "lovably awkward" or "surprising clutchiness" or "awesomely bearded" or any other standard by which we can distinguish a cult favorite from, you know, that guy who was a backup small forward for a couple years back in the early '90s. Oh, and playing on a winning team? Yeah, that's a big help, too.
So with that arbitrary gauntlet thrown down, we plunge in to find the ultimate cult favorite in Bucks history....after the jump.
Even fans of the same team from the same era may disagree on their favorite non-stars; it's just a personal thing. And comparing fan favorites across eras is seemingly impossible since, well, you just had to be there. So while I had my own personal favorites from growing up as a Bucks fan in the '90s--Marty Conlon and Darvin Ham immediately sprang to mind--I threw the question out on Facebook yesterday and got plenty of feedback from those of you who follow us (like!).
So without further ado, here's a rundown (alphabetically) of the most popular nominees along with my own unscientific appraisals of each player's cult credentials. And it's admittedly light on guys from the '70s and '80s, mainly because I was born in 1981 and didn't move to Milwaukee until 1989. Deal with it.
Pro: High-activity rebounder despite short arms and general lack of size. Tremendous nickname-ability (Brockness Monster). Onesie endorser. Much better at trick shots than regular shots. Strong beard potential, occasionally realized.
Con: Seemingly peaked as fan favorite before playing his first game. Didn't always have beard.
Pro: Spastic hustler. Mostly incapable of channeling energy for the powers of good (which is oddly charming, isn't it?). Likable nicknames (Gadz / Danny G). Artisan of the "No! No! Nooooooo....yes!" jump shot. Dutch.
Con: Made waaaaaaaay too much money after his surprisingly excellent 04/05 season.
Pro: Not good at basketball but would try to dunk anything. Victory cigar during Big Three era. Last name is also a meat product. Compelling combination of reckless and clueless.
Con: Far more athletic than your usual cult favorite.
Pro: Graduated from college at 25. Hands of stone but great rebounder/defender. Critical piece of East FInals team. Bears uncomfortable resemblance to a dinosaur.
Pro: Was old (bonus points), doughy (MORE bonus points) and crafty as hell (triple bonus!) by the time he landed in Milwaukee.
Con: Incredibly talented, which is always a red flag for a cult favorite. Former Bull. Dubious facial hair.
Pro: White, big and nicknamed "Big Bird" (aka the Triple Crown). Super mediocre.
Con: Allergic to rebounding. First name is Brad (five-tenths deduction).
Pro: Big, white, chippy and mustachioed.
Con: Eventually shaved mustache.
Pro: Unathletic, untalented white guy who had a buzz cut. Jersey was a prime number (41).
Con: No one ever had the decency to nickname him the "Stormin' Mormon" during his playing days. Lost opportunity.
Pro: Savvy glue guy. Unathletic but statistically productive. Suspension from 2001 East Finals game seven provided conspiracy-fodder. Ugly and charismatic (aka double-threat).
Con: Former Bull. Abandoned Fox Sports Wisconsin for sunny Arizona.
Who's your all-time Bucks cult favorite?
Jon Brockman (9 votes)
Marty Conlon (18 votes)
Dan Gadzuric (23 votes)
Darvin Ham (66 votes)
Ervin Johnson (35 votes)
Toni Kukoc (51 votes)
Brad Lohaus (13 votes)
Paul Mokeski (55 votes)
Mark Pope (7 votes)
Scott Williams (28 votes)
Someone else (let us know in the comments) (21 votes)
326 total votes