Wwwwwwwwwwwwelcome to a special feature on Brew Hoop, dot, com. I’m Mitchell Maurer, and with me today is my good friend and the newest addition to The Athletic, Eric Nehm.
I'm incredibly excited to announce I'm joining the @TheAthleticWISC.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) October 8, 2018
If you're interested, here is a special promo link for 30% off: https://t.co/QoPOrLeWT2.
And yes, I mentioned Johnny O'Bryant in my introductory article. Shooters shoot, man. https://t.co/hte3qvK4Tj
Most of you know Eric via his incomparable presence on Twitter, but some will remember him as a member of the Brew Hoop staff, from early 2015 to late 2016. Among other things, Eric raised the standard for Bucks coverage on Brew Hoop, secured himself as a daily fixture in our podcast feeds, and very soon he’ll be nestled into our bookshelves with his first book, “100 Things Bucks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.”
Eric was kind enough to answer some questions for us, which I compiled after getting my hands on an advance copy. We appreciate his time, and giving us more background and insight into the team that we all obsess over way too much. If that sounds like the sort of thing you’re into, you might want to pick up this book.
Encompassing the need-to-know history of a sports team sounds like a tall order. Where did you start?
Eric Nehm: I just started thinking about things that stuck out to me about the team...the 1971 NBA Championship, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, The Big 3, Mark Pope, Bango, Jim and Jon, Giannis Antetokounmpo. From there, I started doing some research about notable moments from the last five decades and threw them on the list. And then finally when I got close to 100, I chatted with a couple of the veteran journalists I’ve befriended over the years and asked them if they thought I had missed something.
Some might say that writing this book makes you the expert on the Milwaukee Bucks. Agree or disagree?
EN: I am not the expert on the Milwaukee Bucks, just a well-researched student of Bucks History. There is no way I’m an expert on Bucks basketball, because I didn’t get to live it. No amount of research can replace the actual experience of living it. There’s simply no way for the painting to be as vivid as the details of the real thing. In fact, during the Bucks Green and Cream scrimmage last week, I had the pleasure of sharing a table courtside with Matt Velazquez and Jon McGlocklin, and Matt decided to make me uncomfortable by telling Jon I had written a book on Bucks history, which led to Jon peppering me with trivia questions. Including this one:
Jon McGlocklin: Okay, hotshot. Where did the name Bango come from?
Eric Nehm: I believe Eddie Doucette was the first to use it.
Jonny Mac: That’s right. When did he say that?
EN: I think on deep jumpers.
Jonny Mac: WRONG!
EN: Really? When did he say it?
Jonny Mac: On MY jumpers. He started with me and then moved to the other players. I, of course, was the inspiration for the call.
So, if I may, I’d like to nominate Jon McGlocklin as THE expert on the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Note: He was joking with the faux braggadocio. He had a pretty good laugh about it as he gave me a hard time.)
(Note to the note: Jonny Mac is the best, has always been the best, and will always be the best.)
Which chapter is the best chapter, and why is it Chapter 59?
EN: That’s an easy question to answer. You see Mitchell, the 2000-01 Bucks were three point swishin’. They were runnin’ and dishin’. They were, in fact, on a mission, and that was to create the single most catchy hype songs in the history of team-produced hype songs.
I was at Number 83. That’s not a question, I just wanted to re-live it, because it was fun.
EN: For those uninitiated – if you are, that means you haven’t read the book yet, which is cool...you just need to make sure you actually read it though – you are referring to Mo Williams hitting a game-winner against the Indiana Pacers in 2005. The Bucks have played a lot of forgettable basketball over the years, but some of the most forgettable basketball came between the “Big Three” Bucks and the “Fear The Deer” Bucks and yet, that felt like a moment. I’m not sure if it was the comeback. Or the television call. Or Williams’ celebration. But for some reason, that game-winner feels like one of the few memorable games from that time period.
The MECCA floor shows up a few times in your book, but many fans may have only learned of it during last season’s throwback game. What do you want them to take away from those chapters?
EN: It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Every single inch of the floor was painted. There was literally not a single spot on the floor that was just wood stain. There was paint everywhere. I never got to see the original version, but the re-made version they used in the “Return to the MECCA Game” was just so freaking bright and amazing. And I knew what to expect! The good folks in Milwaukee did not get to see it beforehand. Robert Indiana insisted the first game on the floor would be the first time anyone got to see it. He treated it like he would any work of art, and that’s exactly what it was. And it should be remembered as such.
The Bucks’ lone championship came thanks to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor. Kareem is underrated by many; how might he hold up in today’s NBA?
EN: I found this incredible quote from a Sports Illustrated article in 1970 I included in the book about “Big Lew”, which talks about how this seven-footer can’t just dribble, but bring the ball up the floor and make moves. If you’d read it now, you’d be convinced it was something someone said about Giannis Antetokounmpo. Abdul-Jabbar was a freak. Insanely gifted and athletic for a man that size. He’d do well in the modern NBA. He likely would have been trained differently and might have some different strengths/skills, but he’s far too talented to not be a star in the modern NBA.
Herb Kohl sold the team in 2014, but nearly sold them years earlier, in 2003. In that alternate timeline, how different does the Bucks’ story look?
EN: Frankly, the story could already be complete. There’s no way to know exactly how the group led by Michael Jordan would have acted, but there’s at least a chance the team would no longer be in Milwaukee. They could have decided to move the team, which was obviously a big part of why Kohl opted to not sell the team, and instead wait for an ownership group that would pledge to keep the team in Milwaukee.
From the perspective of a fan of the team, which chapter of the book was easiest for you to write?
EN: Any of the chapters that happened recently were easiest. I lived all of it, so much of it was from memory with some research to confirm I had gotten details correct.
In, say, 10 years, what new chapters could be added to the next edition of the book?
EN: You said could, so I’ll run with it: There could be a chapter about an Antetokounmpo MVP season and an NBA Championship. If history teaches us anything though, there will more likely be an impassioned case for why Antetokounmpo deserved an MVP and a heartbreaking loss before the NBA Finals.
More seriously, I’d guess a few more Antetokounmpo-centric chapters, a longer chapter on Fiserv Forum, and a more detailed Mike Budenholzer chapter seem like locks for the next edition of the book.
My main critique: why is there not a chapter devoted to the Giannis Stink Face?!
EN: I couldn’t fit the Sam Cassell Big Balls Dance chapter, so I decided to axe the Giannis Stink Face chapter as well. I will say this though, trying to figure out just how many Giannis stories to include was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make.
I want to buy a dozen copies, right now. Where should I go?!
EN: First, starting on Tuesday, October 9, you can simply visit your local book store and purchase it. (And if they don’t have it, demand they get it.) If you’d prefer to purchase it online though, you can go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, or directly from Triumph Books.
Today is a holiday, of sorts. It’s an impromptu celebration of Eric’s achievements, which doubles as a proud day for Brew Hoop, both where we’ve been and where we’re going. When I first joined the site back in 2009 (aka the Brandon Jennings Era), we were a niche group of die-hard fans of a third-rate team in a league that, while popular, was still struggling for direction. Today, nearly 10 years later, we are still that niche group of die-hards, but we’ve evolved to the point of not merely participating in the larger NBA conversation, but actually helping to shape it. Oh, and our team is way better.
The names have changed over the years, but the mission hasn’t: Brew Hoop exists because we want to be the best Milwaukee Bucks community on the internet. You – our readers – come here to take part in what we have to offer, and build upon the analysis and perspectives that we present. Eric represents the best of what Brew Hoop has become, and his success demonstrates how far hard work and dedication can take a person, and could take any one of us!
We are enormously proud of Eric’s next step on his journey covering the Bucks. That subscription to The Athletic might be worth it, after all.