Struggle. Hope. Redemption.
The basic ingredients and fundamental appeal of a comeback are hardly unique to sports, but they hold special significance in how we enjoy, celebrate and become emotionally entangled with our favorite teams. While dominance is fun, it's never quite as fun, exasperating or ultimately enjoyable as doing it the hard way.
Comebacks are of course not a narrowly-defined phenomenon. Whether it's referring to the ebb and flow within a two hour game, the back-and-forth in a seven game playoff series, or an individual player's long journey back from adversity, the concept of the comeback is anything but rare. But it also captures the essence of what we love about sports, or indeed any other competition. Whether you root for the Bobcats or the Heat, watching your team mount a gritty comeback is a decidedly of-the-moment sensation, one that can transcend how good or bad your team might be. Well, temporarily at least.
With that in mind, we tried to think back to a few of the more memorable comebacks in recent memory--as well as the greatest comeback win in Bucks history. For the purposes of this story we looked only at individual games with a heavy bias towards the recent past, so let us know in the comments what your favorite comeback is--whether it was a game, playoff series or player returning from injury.
This 86-84 win was to the Bucks' 2009-10 season as The Expendables series was to 1980s action flicks; a "comeback" from irrelevance, so to speak.
The Bucks' 11th victory in 12 games perfectly encapsulated the best and worst of Milwaukee's 46-win season; attitude, toughness, and sporadic offense. Despite their resurgence, the Bucks had barely made a blip on the national news radar before this game. Against the villainous Celtics, who were riding a four game winning streak of their own, Milwaukee turned in a playoff-worthy performance that left everyone leaving the Bradley Center with energy and hope that had left the building 10 years prior.
Brandon Jennings let his swagger flag fly, taking on Glen Davis after a hard foul and throwing verbal jabs at Kevin Garnett as both teams walked off the floor. Andrew Bogut anchored the middle of a defense that showed it could give and receive haymakers, and played like a No. 1 pick. A new identity began taking shape, and for the first time in a decade, it felt like the Bucks could take on anyone, anywhere, anytime.
What many would characterize as the high point of the 11/12 season started with quite the low, as LeBron James' unstoppable 24-point first quarter propelled the Heat to a 51-33 second quarter lead. All of which seemed rather appropriate considering a) they're the Heat and b) having just beaten them in Miami, the Bucks weren't going to sneak up on LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh again.
They didn't, at least not in the first half, but Milwaukee's two-quarter rope-a-dope set the stage for a gradual fightback behind an energetic, swarming defense and the long-range marksmanship of Brandon Jennings (seven threes, 31 points). The win brought the Bucks to within a game of .500, and people were taking note: sports talk radio was buzzing, and Bucks fans had another reason to think maybe Jennings was the guy they remembered from November 2009.
And then they went to Detroit the following Friday and...well, let's not go there.
The high of taking a 3-2 playoff series lead in Atlanta was quickly dulled by back-to-back losses in games six and seven, but we shouldn't forget just how improbable (and, like, awesome) it was watching the upstart, Bogut-less Bucks shock the Hawks and put them on the brink of elimination. Trailing by 13 in the third and by nine with just four minutes left, the Bucks rallied in balanced fashion, with Kurt Thomas, Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, and John Salmons all making critical plays down the stretch.
It's easy to forget, but before there was Jennings there was Mo Williams. And it's also easy to forget that there was a time when Mo was actually, you know, viewed favorably in the Milwaukee area.
To many (including yours truly), Williams' buzzer-beating three remains the Bucks' most memorable comeback of the past decade. Yes, the Bucks have had other buzzer-beaters since then, but none came under circumstances that were quite as improbable. Trailing 96-82 in the fourth quarter, the Bucks came back in no small part thanks to 10 missed free throws from Indiana, and the resurrection wasn't complete until after the final horn sounded.
It also happened to coincide with our Mitchell Maurer's first ever game at the BC (he claims to have written a MySpace post about it, but we've yet to find it), which means that it's basically been all down hill since. Sorry Mitchell.
The greatest fourth quarter comeback in NBA history is seemingly one of the least documented as well. Trailing by 29 points on the road in Atlanta with just under nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Don Nelson's Bucks went on a ridiculous 35-4 run to end the game and squeak out a two point victory behind Junior Bridgeman's 24 points. While four other teams have overcome 30+ point deficits in NBA history, none of them did it all in the final period, making this arguably the greatest comeback in NBA history period.
And yet: I can't find any video of it on YouTube, nor any vivid recollections of the circumstances elsewhere. Not even 9,000 fans were in attendance in Atlanta that night, and for the Hawks it was probably for the best.