The Bradley Center has been a fixture of downtown Milwaukee since its opening in 1988. It isn’t a spectacular or glamorous building by any means. The primarily gray color was simplistic but it got the job done, similar to the culture that was Milwaukee.
The Bucks needed a new place to play as the MECCA was aging, and the hope was with the new arena, the city of Milwaukee could attract an expansion NHL franchise. That never happened, but the Milwaukee Bucks, Marquette Men’s Basketball team, the Milwaukee Admirals, numerous semi-pro teams, the WWE, and several musicians have put the BC to good use over the last 30 years.
However, the Bradley Center is now considered one of the worst accommodating arenas in the NBA. After years of debating, referendums, and legislation, Milwaukee was awarded a new arena, the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center. The 2017-18 basketball season will be the last time the Bucks and Marquette men’s basketball team will play at the BC.
It’s time to look back at the best teams to ever compete within the walls of the Bradley Center.
For part one, the top ten teams ranked 10-6, click here.
5. 88-89 Milwaukee Bucks
The 88-89 Bucks were the first team to play in the brand new Bradley Center, and what a season it was for the Bucks who continued their dominance of the 1980’s. The team finished with a 49-33 record, the most wins a Bucks team would have until the 00-01 season.
Led by Terry Cummings, Paul Pressey, and a declining Sidney Moncrief, the Bucks were able to capture the 5 seed in the East. They paired up with the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. The Hawks were a team who had the Bucks number all year as they swept the regular season series, winning all six matchups. In the playoffs, the Bucks proved to be the better team as they beat Atlanta in a decisive game five. In the Conference Semifinals, the Bucks would be swept by the eventual NBA champions, the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons.
4. 03-04 Milwaukee Admirals
The hope was the Bradley Center would bring an NHL franchise to the city of Milwaukee. That hope has yet to come to fruition. But in 1998, the Milwaukee Admirals became the NHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators. The city may not have been awarded an NHL franchise, but the former semi-pro team has since become the stomping grounds for Nashville Predators hopefuls.
The best season for the Admirals, by far, is the year they won the Calder Cup in 2004. While the team plays most of its games in the MECCA now, at one point they did play the majority of games in the Bradley Center, including the 03-04 season. In the Calder Cup, the Admirals absolutely dominated the underdog Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. They swept the series, winning the final game in dominant fashion, 7-2.
The success wasn’t limited to the postseason, however, The Admirals tied with the Hartford Wolf Pack as the best team in the regular season. Both teams finished with 102 points. Curtis Murphy won the Defenceman of the year and the Admirals Coach, Claude Murphy, was awarded the Coach of the Year.
3. 12-13 Marquette Golden Eagles
Despite losing Jae Crowder to the NBA, the Marquette Golden Eagles were able to continue their newfound success under coach Buzz Williams and his trio of Juniors Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, and Jamil Wilson.
The Golden Eagles rolled through the 12-13 college basketball season with ease, for the most part. Early struggles were overcome when Marquette entered Big East conference play. They won their first six of eight, including a huge win versus a top 15 Georgetown team. Davante Gardner hit two clutch free throws to seal the 49-48 win at the Bradley Center. Marquette added three more marquee wins at the Bradley Center. Beating 16th ranked Pittsburgh, 12th ranked Syracuse, and 21st ranked Notre Dame.
Despite winning a share of the Big East regular season, the Golden Eagles were ousted in the quarterfinal round to Notre Dame. However, Marquette’s resume in the regular season was enough to get a three seed in the NCAA tournament.
Marquette narrowly escaped the opening weekend with a one-point win over Davidson and a two-point win over Butler. In the Sweet 16, Marquette was able to upset Miami and had the right to play Big East rival, Syracuse in the Elite 8 and a chance to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2003. They would eventually run out of gas in that game, but it was another great season of Marquette basketball. Vander Blue and Davante Gardner were named to the East Region all-tournament team too.
2. 02-03 Marquette Golden Eagles
This is the best Marquette Golden Eagles team to ever play in the Bradley Center and for good reason. Future NBA all-star and sure-fire Hall of Famer, Dwayne Wade, was the star of this team without a doubt. He may just be the best athlete to ever grace the Marquette blue and yellow.
The Golden Eagles were a ranked team throughout the 02-03 season. They ranked as high as 8th and as low as 24th. The fact that they were considered a top 25 team all year shows how dominant of a team they were.
Everyone remembers how dominant Dwayne Wade was, but you cannot forget the supporting cast he had. Before the season got underway. Robert Jackson, a forward from Mississippi State announced he would transfer to Marquette. He was able to play for his team he grew up watching. Travis Diener and Scott Merritt were also huge contributors throughout the year. A young Steve Novak also provided something off the bench too.
Marquette rolled through the regular season with ease, only losing four games. However, once it was time for the Conference USA tournament, Marquette didn’t show up. They lost in their first game. But, the NCAA tournament was on the mind of the team. They were able to get a three-seed despite the early exit in their conference tournament.
From there, they escaped with some close wins the first weekend. A six-point win over Holy Cross and an overtime win over Missouri. From there, a Sweet 16 clash with Pittsburgh proved to be the most exciting game of Marquette’s run, winning by three points to one of the best teams in the country. In the Elite 8, Marquette had to play the number one team in the country, Kentucky. They blew right by them en route to New Orleans and the Final Four.
Kansas would be the final stop, however. This was Marquette’s best team since the 1977 National Championship squad and the 02-03 team has been the best team since.
1. 00-01 Milwaukee Bucks
Without a doubt, this team was the best to play in the Bradley Center and there’s no debate about it. A young Ray Allen, “Big Dog” Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell were the “Big 3” in Milwaukee. However, this team had a great supporting cast on top of the featured three. Tim Thomas and Lindsey Hunter provided sparks for the team as well.
A 52-win season was the best any Milwaukee Bucks team recorded since the prime days of Sidney Moncrief in the mid-80s. To this day, not a single Bucks squad has recorded 50 or more wins in a season.
Early in the campaign, things didn’t look good. Losing 9 of the first 12 games, the Bucks needed a spark if they wanted their season to turn around. That’s exactly what they got. Winning the next 23 of 29 games, which included an 8-game winning streak. Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson were named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team for their almost identical numbers in the 00-01 season.
The Bucks cruised to a Central Division crown, the first since 1986. They also locked up a 2-seed in the Eastern Conference. In the Playoffs, they made quick work of the Orlando Magic in the first round. Then faced a tough test in the Charlotte Hornets, who upset the 3-seeded Miami Heat.
It took seven games to beat the Hornets. Opening the series with two wins was very important but the Hornets would win the next three, including a tough win at the Bradley Center. After that game five loss in the Bradley Center, the Bucks were down in the series 3-2 and needed to beat the Hornets twice in order to advance to the Conference Finals. They did what they had to do. The Bucks would win the next two games and were set to face the Philadelphia 76ers, led by the 00-01 MVP, Allen Iverson.
In the ECF, the Bucks took the top-seeded 76ers, to their limit. It took seven games for Allen Iverson to eliminate the Bucks. However, not without some controversy. Bucks coach George Karl and Ray Allen both stated the series was fixed. While there is some pretty convincing evidence for the fixing, the fact the Bucks could take it to seven games while having to play against the refs too is a pretty good feat.
It was a great run for the Milwaukee Bucks, and it was easily the best team to ever play in the Bradley Center. It’s a shame the team didn’t stay together longer. Ray Allen was shipped off to Seattle and Glenn Robinson got traded to Atlanta.