Back in April 2015, amidst tremendous hype and anticipation, the Milwaukee Bucks unveiled their new logo: a hard-edged, white-eyed, pissed-off 12-pointer. Just try and tag this, you blaze-orange-wearing bozo, it seemed to say. While some fans bemoaned the loss of the friendlier-looking 8-point buck of recent years—or the cartoonish, Rankin/Bass-esque version of yesteryear—most agreed the new logo was kind of badass, that it was pretty slick, and that it fit in well with the team’s #OwnTheFuture future.
Just imagine if it had been a pissed-off robin.
The Milwaukee Bucks came into being on January 22, 1968, when the National Basketball Association awarded one of two new franchises to an ownership group in Milwaukee. The news came less than three years after the Milwaukee Braves had packed their bats and balls for Atlanta, and once again made Milwaukee a major league town. Wesley D. Pavalon and Marvin L. Fishman headed up the ownership group, Milwaukee Professional Sports and Services, Inc., and were named president and executive vice president, respectively.
The prospect of a professional basketball team in Milwaukee proved incredibly popular with the public. According to the Bucks’ official history:
An application from Milwaukee Pro was registered with the Wisconsin Department of Securities for the sale of 300,000 shares of common stock to Wisconsin residents at $5 per share. Because the issue caught public fancy, an additional 125,000 shares were offered when the stock opened on the over-the-counter market on April 24, 1968.
But the team didn’t have a name. The public would get in on this as well, via a statewide naming contest that eventually netted more than 14,000 entries. Happily, “Bucks” proved to be the clear winner, the team was quickly christened as such, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was drafted the following year (by a coin flip!), something something about the new stadium 50 years later, and the rest is history.
Yes, if Wisconsin basketball-name voters had had their druthers back in ’68, Milwaukee would have been home to the Milwaukee…Robins. This was the most-voted-on fan-submitted name in the contest, second only to “Bucks.” (Other suggestions included “Skunks,” “Badgers,” “Beavers,” “Hornets,” “Stags,” and “Ponies.”) But contest judges thought better of naming the team after Wisconsin’s friendly but timid state bird (and/or naming it the “Ponies”), and went with the second-most popular choice instead. On May 22, 1968, four months after the team’s inception, the Milwaukee Bucks were officially born.
So why the Bucks and not the Robins? A final delightful detail, via the Bucks, may hold the answer:
Records show that R.D. Trebilcox of Whitefish Bay, Wis., was one of 45 persons who suggested the name “Bucks.” He saw bucks as being spirited, good jumpers, fast and agile. For his efforts in helping Milwaukee’s entry into the professional sports world gain an enduring nickname, Mr. Trebilcox won a new car.