'It's epic': On a night to remember, Milwaukee fans rejoice as Bucks win first NBA title in 50 years
NOTE: This story was updated on Jan. 18, 2022, to make it free for all readers.
Years from now, we'll remember the night and the noise.
We'll shake our heads in disbelief and wonder: Did this really happen?
On Tuesday night in the heart of a Milwaukee summer, 65,000 fans sporting every imaginable version of Bucks gear transformed the open acres outside Fiserv Forum into a pulsing sea of sound.
Inside the arena, there were thousands more, on their feet and roaring from the first basket to the final buzzer, a 50-year wait turning into a deafening release.
At last, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA title, defeating the Phoenix Suns, 105-98, Tuesday night to take the Finals 4 games to 2.
"Bucks in 6!" a chant that rang through the arena and the plaza, was no longer just a prediction.
It was reality.
"This is insane," said Noah Lange, 24, from Green Bay. "I have watched the Bucks through thick and thin and losing seasons and disappointment. This is insane."
The win wasn't just about sports, though.
This was about a city and its fans swept up in emotion that built over the weeks of the playoff run, a wondrous basketball ride built on muscle and skill and heart.
And everyone was welcome to join the journey.
"This is history," said Elijah Jones, 18, of Milwaukee. "Tell Phoenix 414 is here."
Joy Smith, 50, from Milwaukee, danced after the final buzzer and said: "Milwaukee is underrated, but we proved to the world we could do it."
For so many, this was a game and a moment they couldn't miss. It was like Summerfest and State Fair rolled into one.
“Everyone who’s anyone is here,” said Sabrina Holland, 37 of Milwaukee. “It’s epic.”
Holland wasn't even alive when the Bucks won the title in 1971.
“The city really needed this,” said Alesha Collins, 25, of Milwaukee. “Look at this — we’re all together."
The Deer District was expanded to hold up to 65,000 fans and it looked full. One of the main gates to the plaza shut at around 8 p.m. Less than an hour later, others were closed, too.
Beneath a sign that read "History in the Making," thousands of fans were jammed together in front of the arena.
There was no room to spare.
Beer lines were massive. At one point, fans on the plaza could be seen passing through pieces of security fencing.
At halftime, up to three dozen people broke through barricades and got into the plaza. Police on horseback were called in. Some glass bottles were thrown but order was restored.
'This is once in a lifetime'
Troy and Joanie Fredrick of Bayside bought tickets to the game while walking into the plaza a few hours before tip-off. The couple paid around $6,500 for two tickets to sit in the lower bowl.
“This is once in a lifetime,” Troy Fredrick said. “Even if we do this again, will we get to do this at home? I’ve been waiting for this since I was five. It’s my bucket list.”
Ron Workman, 76, a puppeteer and ventriloquist, drove five hours from Amery just to be in the plaza. He said he was Milwaukee 50 years ago when the Bucks won their first title.
He recalled that championships are hard to come by in Wisconsin and, "We're used to waiting."
Donn Broich went to the game with his daughter Allie and called the experience “priceless.”
“I was a season ticket holder with the Bucks in 1974,” Broich said. “But back then when I was going to school I couldn’t afford playoff tickets… for me it’s been 50 years.”
Bucks fan Matt Troha wore layers of beads, jerseys, shirts, a green wig, and a hat with antlers.
For Troha it started in 1997 when he got beads from the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
“I stared wearing (the beads from the Super Bowl) in the 1998 playoffs for the Bucks and I’ve been adding on every year since, Troha said.
Troha has been a season ticket holder, on and off, since 1986. He thought the Bucks had a chance to make the finals in 2001 and 2019, but this year surprised him.
“This year I was a little skeptical but I’m glad we’re here,” Troha said. “It’s been 50 years since there was a title in Milwaukee… this city needs this for sure.”
Passed up $10,000 for ticket
Sandy Strye moved to Milwaukee from Switzerland in 1996 and quickly became a Bucks fan. She went to Game 6 with her daughter Brooke.
“Win or lose, it doesn’t matter, it’s just great that I can go with her,” Sandy Strye said.
Allen Banks bought Game 6 tickets during an earlier game when Bucks were trailing and prices were flagging.
He paid $1,000 each for two tickets in the lower bowl and took along his son Michael.
He wavered a little bit when he realized he could get far more for the tickets on the secondary market.
"I posted the tickets for $10,000 and they were trying to give me the money, but I said 'I’m going to the game.' Yeah, I passed the $10,000 up.”
"This game means a lot to us," he said. "It's very special and good for the city."
Inside and outside the arena, there was pure joy and a wall of sounds like you've never heard as the Bucks closed out the game.
"It brings tears to my eyes," said Damon Ray, 35, of Wauwatosa. "This is amazing. Think of the positivity this will bring to Milwaukee. I grew up here and have never seen anything like this. To get this Milwaukee, this is it."
As the championship party got started with fireworks, Antonique Lewis, 23, of Milwaukee said: "This win means everything. I mean, just look at everybody."
Nearby, James Ford, 32, of Beloit, climbed up a pole and shouted: "I'm ecstatic. This is a dream come true. Bucks in six."
Christian Robles, Emiliano Gomez and Hannah Kirby of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.