Dog Days Revisited
Robinson reviews highlights of Milwaukee years
The Bradley Center never became known as “The Dog House.”
But one of its most prominent occupants spanning 1994 through 2002 was Glenn Robinson, otherwise known as “The Big Dog.”
Robinson will revisit Milwaukee and help the Bucks organization turn back the clock when it celebrates Y2K Night by hosting the Indiana Pacers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Robinson will sign autographs in the concourse at 6:30 p.m. and be recognized during the game.
The recognition is justice.
The Bucks selected the 6-foot-7-inch, 225-pound Robinson out of Purdue University with the No. 1 overall selection in the 1994 National Basketball Association Draft. During the eight seasons that followed, he accumulated 12,010 points to become the second-leading scorer in franchise history, trailing only Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Robinson paid another visit to Milwaukee in 2008 when he was voted to the franchise’s 20-player 40th Anniversary Team. He made it clear during his homecoming how much that honor meant to him.
“Oh, man, that was exciting news,” Robinson said. “Words can’t explain it. To even be talked about as one of the best players in franchise history is big stuff. It’s a great accomplishment.”
As Robinson convened in the same room with the other members of the Bucks 40th Anniversary Team – icons such as Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Bob Dandridge, Marques Johnson and Sidney Moncrief – the honor truly hit home.
“It reminds you of all the hard work you put in, and how much the fans appreciated that,” he said.
Robinson’s career roots go back to Gary, Indiana. He led Gary Roosevelt High School to the 1991 Indiana state championship, leading his team past Pike High School and future NBA player Alan Henderson. Glenn won the prestigious Indiana Mr. Basketball Award, became a McDonald’s All-American and shared Most Valuable Player honors with Chris Webber in the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic.
Webber, who went on to play 17 NBA seasons and become a five-time All-Star, once shared his memories of his first glimpse of Robinson.
“The best story I can remember goes back to the first time we played at Garfield Park in Chicago,” Webber said. “I think we were about 14. I’d heard about Glenn, and he’d heard about me. I’ll never forget it.
“Before the game, we were in the center jump circle getting ready to jump. There were a lot of people there, a lot of our friends. They knew we were going to go against each other. There was a lot of hype and anticipation. We just looked at each other.
“We’re staring at each other, and the ref is throwing the ball up. The first one to jump in actuality is kind of giving up on being the man right now. We just kept staring at each other. Finally the refs called time out, we went to our benches, and then we came back and jumped.
“We were competitors, and the first time we played against each other, we didn’t jump it; we just stared at each other trying to psych each other out.”
The two would cross paths many times during their careers.
“Growing up, he and I were always No. 1 and 2 in our class in high school, according to Bob Gibbons (the North Carolina-based scouting service guru),” Webber said. “We had so much respect for each other’s games. He used to talk to me about playing in Indiana against Alan Henderson, who was exceptional.
“Glenn was one of the best high school basketball players I played against, definitely. He’s definitely the best big man high school basketball player I ever played against. He was a big man who could shoot at an early age. Glenn could shoot, he was athletic, and he was the highest jumper I knew then. He had such great fluidity. He was so smooth with the ball – effortless, it seemed to me. I really liked his game.”
Robinson went to play for Hall-of-Fame Coach Gene Keady at Purdue University while Webber became part of the “Fab Five” at the University of Michigan.
Glenn averaged 24.1 points and 9.4 rebounds a game in his first season as a Boilermaker and received First Team All-Big Ten and Second Team All-American honors.
In Robinson’s second and final season at Purdue, averaged 30.3 points and 11.2 rebounds a game, becoming the first player since 1978 to lead the Big Ten Conference in both categories. He led the Boilermakers to a Big Ten Conference title, an Elite Eight appearance and a 29-5 record. He was unanimously chosen Big Ten Conference Player of the Year and the unanimous winner of the John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith Award.
Robinson’s impact in Milwaukee was immediate during his rookie campaign.
In just his 49th game, he joined the 1,000-point club faster than anyone rookie in Bucks history besides Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was the only two-time winner of the NBA’s Rookie of the Month Award.
Robinson averaged 21.9 points (tops among NBA rookies and 10th in the league), 6.4 rebounds, and Milwaukee won 14 more games than it did the previous season.
During the previous decade, only three teams made greater strides in the debut season of a No. 1 draft pick: the 1989-90 San Antonio Spurs, who improved by 35 games with David Robinson in their lineup; the 1992-93 Orlando Magic, who climbed 20 games upon the arrival of Shaquille O’Neal; and the 1992-93 Golden State Warriors, who improved 16 games after trading for top pick Chris Webber.
Robinson continued his development and made the NBA All-Star Team in 2000 and 2001, but when he revisited Milwaukee in 2008 and was asked what Bucks memories were at the top of his list, his response reflected the team player that he was.
“I think the first thing that comes to mind is making it to the playoffs (in 1999 – the Bucks’ first trip since 1991),” he said. “That was really our first great accomplishment, and something that we worked hard for since I first got here.
“We made it to the playoffs during the lockout year, and everyone was so excited.”
Two years later, Milwaukee won the Central Division championship – its first division title since 1986 – and advanced all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before being ousted by the Philadelphia 76ers.
“Getting to the conference finals was the ultimate,” Robinson said. “And not only for the team; everybody was in it together, from the players to the coaches to the fans. It was like one big, happy family.”
Robinson certainly experienced his share of individual thrills as well.
“One memory that comes to mind, individually, was when I scored my 10,000th point (on Feb. 15, 2001 at the Bradley Center),” he said. “That was the first time a game had been stopped to honor something that I did on the court. That was special.”
Robinson is proud, too, to be the second all-time leading scorer in Bucks franchise history.
“I wish I had been able to be here to be even closer to Kareem,” he said. “But man, just to be in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s shadow, or Lew Alcindor’s, man. … words can’t describe how big that is. He’s one of the best ever to play the game.”
Robinson ranks among the Bucks’ all-time leaders in 14 of 19 categories, including second in points (12,010), third in scoring average (21.12 ppg), eighth in games (568), third in minutes (21,262), sixth in rebounds (3,519) and seventh in steals (689).
Glenn is now the proud father of University of Michigan sophomore Glenn Robinson III, a standout on the Wolverines’ 2013 NCAA runner-up team; and Gelen Robinson, an Indiana high school state wrestling champion and all-state football player who signed a National Letter of Intent earlier this month to attend Purdue University and play linebacker for the Boilermakers.
When Glenn rewinds the highlights of his days in Milwaukee, he takes the greatest pride in helping the franchise return to NBA prominence.
“That’s what it was all about,” he said. “We got the job done. And when you do your job, people compliment you, and the fans showed us that they appreciated what we did.
“And it wasn’t just us; it was with the help of the fans. Without them, none of it would have been possible.”