Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA title since 1971 and just the third for Wisconsin’s largest city since it became a “major league” city when Major League Baseball’s Braves relocated from Boston ahead of the 1953 season.
Milwaukee’s teams have claimed three championships in the 68 years since. The Braves won the first, claiming the 1957 World Series crown while the Bucks now have two, in 1971 and 2021.
In addition, Milwaukee teams have also played for a championship on three other occasions. As the city celebrates its latest success, here’s a look back at the other times Milwaukee has made it to the championship round:
1957 World Series
Milwaukee Braves 4, New York Yankees 3
A cellar-dwelling afterthought in Boston, the Braves became immediate contenders after arriving in Milwaukee where they played in front of record numbers of fans at County Stadium. After finishing a game shy of the NL Pennant in 1956, the Braves rewarded their fans in ’57, clinching the pennant on Henry Aaron’s walk-off home run on Sept. XXX to set a date with the Yankees in the Fall Classic.
Henry Aaron batted .393 during the series, collecting 11 hits including a triple with three home runs and seven RBIs while left-hander Lew Burdette was named the series’ Most Valuable Player after tossing three complete games, two of them shutouts, while striking out 13 and walking just four.
Though Milwaukee was the nation’s 13th most-populous city according to the 1950 census, members of the Yankees reportedly referred to the city and its raucous fans as “Bushville” ahead of the series and after the Braves clinched a 5-0 victory in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, the celebration in Downtown Milwaukee featured a large, handheld sign proclaiming “Bushville Wins.”
1958 World Series
New York Yankees 4, Milwaukee Braves 3
Back in the World Series for a second straight year, the Braves were a victory away from becoming the first NL team to win back-to-back titles since the 1920-21 New York Giants after Warren Spahn’s two-hitter led Milwaukee to a 3-0 victory in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium.
The Braves, though, wouldn’t win another game as the Yankees broke open a 1-0 game with a six-run sixth to win Game 5, 7-0, then scored two runs in the 10th to take Game 6 and clinched their 18th title — and eighth in a 12-year span — with four two-out runs in the eighth inning of Game 7.
Milwaukee lost a NL tiebreaker series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959 and six years later, the team relocated to Atlanta.
1971 NBA Finals
Milwaukee Bucks 4, Baltimore Bullets 0
Three years removed from joining the NBA as an expansion team, the Bucks steamrolled their way into the finals behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (still known as Lew Alcindor) and veteran point guard Oscar Robertson, who joined the team in a trade from Cincinnati prior to the season.
The Bucks steamrolled their way through the regular season, finishing 66-16, and are still considered one of the most statistically dominant teams in NBA history. After dispatching the Warriors and Lakers in five games each during the first two rounds of the playoffs, Milwaukee caught a break when Baltimore upset the defending champion Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
With Alcindor and Robertson leading the way, the Bucks breezed through the Finals in four games and clinched the title with a 118-106 victory on April 30 in Baltimore.
1974 NBA Finals
Boston Celtics 4, Milwaukee Bucks 3
Following their first championship, Milwaukee was bounced from the playoffs by the Lakers and Warriors in the two following seasons but returned to the Finals in 1974.
Milwaukee evened the series with a double-overtime thriller in Game 6 at Boston but was blown out, 102-87, two days later in Game 7 at the Milwaukee Arena in what would be the final game of Robertson’s career and the beginning of the end of Abdul-Jabbar’s time with the Bucks, who dealt him to the Lakers a year later after he made it clear he had no intention of remaining with the team after his contract expired.
The Bucks would go 47 years before making it back to the NBA Finals.
1982 World Series
St. Louis Cardinals 4, Milwaukee Brewers 3
After the Braves bolted for Atlanta, Milwaukee went five long years without a baseball team of its own. That changed in 1970, when the bankrupt Seattle Pilots came to town thanks to Bud Selig but it would take almost a decade for the team to become relevant in the American League.
The team, rechristened as the Brewers, earned its first postseason appearance following the strike-shortened 1981 season and was a favorite to win the AL in ‘82, but needed a dramatic victory on the final day of the season to clinch the AL East then had to rally from an 0-2 deficit to advance to its first World Series.
Milwaukee routed the Cardinals, 10-0, in the series opener behind a record five hits from Paul Molitor but dropped the next two games. The Brewers followed with back-to-back victories in Games 4-5 to take a 3-2 lead but were blown out, 13-1, in Game 6 and dropped the decisive Game 7 in St. Louis the next day.
The Brewers, who switched to the National League in 1998, have yet to return to the World Series though came close in 2011 and 2018, losing the NLCS in six and seven games, respectively.
Notably absent from this list are the multiple NFL and Super Bowl Championships won by the Green Bay Packers and while Milwaukee, like the rest of Wisconsin, claims the Packers as their own — and even hosted as many as three regular season games per year through the 1994 season — Green Bay is a hefty distance from Milwaukee.
Because the list focused on Milwaukee’s professional major league teams, Marquette University’s 1970 NIT Championship and 1977 NCAA Championship weren’t included.
Additionally, Milwaukee has had other champions at the minor league level. The Admirals of the American Hockey League won the Calder Cup in 2004 and advanced to the Finals again two years later before falling to the Hershey Bears.
The Milwaukee Wave indoor soccer team has seven championship banners; six of them from the Major Indoor Soccer League as well as the 2019 Major Arena Soccer League title.