The future of the Milwaukee Bucks will be determined in large part by the eventual successor to owner Herb Kohl. Kohl's tenure has been fairly criticized for a lack of on-court success, but it can't be denied that his presence and commitment to the state of Wisconsin has been critical to the preservation of professional basketball in the city of Milwaukee. Moving on from Kohl may offer the possibility of greater success as a franchise under fresh new management, but ensuring that such success doesn't take place in Seattle, or Louisville, or anywhere other than Brew City will require renewed dedication on the part of whoever takes over.
A few possible candidates have been mentioned, including ex-Buck and fast-food mogul Junior Bridgeman and former Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn. An ownership group featuring a mix of local and national investors seems most likely given the lack of a fabulously wealthy, Wisconsin-based individual. That group could also feature another former Buck, only this one happens to be one of the greatest players in NBA history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
In an appearance on CNBC's Fast Money program, where he primarily discussed the issue of college player payments, Abdul-Jabbar stated that he could be involved in future ownership of the team (Bucks talk toward the end of that clip). Note that from his quotes it's not entirely clear if he's speaking in generalities or if he's discussed opportunities in detail with Kohl or any potential investors:
The team is probably going to change hands soon, I don't know what's going to happen specifically, but I'm keeping an eye on it. I might possibly try to be involved, it would be great to be able to help the franchise where, that I worked for, get back to the top. They deserve it, the Wisconsin sports fans are incredible, and they deserve a first-rate team.
(h/t @zerosum24 on Twitter for cluing me in to the interview and sharing the video)
Kareem made a recent appearance at a Bucks game during a visit to Wisconsin in which he worked with the Wisconsin Tourism Board to promote a new ad spoofing his famous cameo in the movie Airplane! At the time Adbul-Jabbar had recently voiced a passive interest in getting involved with the franchise again, while last year he said he would definitely be interested in a coaching position were one offered to him. Ironically his visit came just two days after Bridgeman was in town for his bobblehead night.
Though he admits to falling prey to bad financial advice during the '80s, Kareem is estimated to have a net worth in the range of $20 million--nice in the grand scheme of things, but unlikely to earn him more than a small minority stake in the team should he join an ownership group. Still, his stature as an NBA legend and arguably the greatest player in franchise history could go a long way toward establishing more goodwill for the team in Milwaukee (assuming older fans have dropped any grudges related to his trade from Milwaukee to Los Angeles), even if he were little more than a figurehead. And don't rule out some degree of involvement in basketball operations, whether that be in the front office or as even an ancillary part of the coaching staff.
The Bucks' search for new ownership began in earnest last December (with plenty of work surely done prior to that), when Kohl announced that he had retained Steve Greenberg, Managing Director of investment bank Allen & Company, as an adviser to aid him in seeking new investors to "broaden the ownership of the Bucks." Kohl framed the search as one that would take place over several months, and few expected major developments anytime soon. It's possible things have moved much quicker than anticipated, however. Interest in the Bucks has been reportedly been high since Kohl's December announcement, including among local investors who share Kohl's commitment to keeping the team in town. A transfer in ownership could happen quite soon, possibly within the next few months, and Kohl will likely give up "total control of the franchise."