Did we just experience the best weekend in Wisconsin sports history?

JR Radcliffe
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
View Comments
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and P.J. Tucker won a mammoth Game 5 on Saturday, and Willy Adames and the Brewers swept a major clash with Cincinnati.

It's hard to imagine a more fulfilling Wisconsin sports weekend, during which the Milwaukee Bucks won Game 5 of the NBA Finals to set up a chance for the NBA title in Milwaukee on Tuesday and the Brewers swept three games in Cincinnati to pad their NL Central lead.

The Bucks' thrilling 123-119 win in Phoenix gave Milwaukee a 3-2 lead and put the franchise on the precipice of its first NBA title since 1971. The Brewers, who dropped three games to the Reds to close the first half of the season, thus allowing their closest foe in the division race to pull within four games of first place, atoned with a three-game sweep out of the all-star break that was capped with an 8-0 drubbing on Sunday.

The Brewers now have a seven-game lead in first place with the trade deadline two weeks away. They also moved their Tuesday game time to the afternoon to clear the floor for the Bucks madness. 

Tuesday will unquestionably be a landmark day in Wisconsin sports, regardless of what happens in the Brewers game. But was this the best weekend in Wisconsin sports? These are candidates for the honor.

March 22-24, 1974

Al McGuire, then Marquette basketball coach, shouts to his team during their NCAA semifinal game against Kansas in Greensboro, N.C., on March 23, 1974.

In its first Final Four, Marquette defeated Kansas in the national semifinal, 64-51, with Maurice Lucas scoring 18 points and hauling in 14 rebounds. The Milwaukee Bucks, meanwhile, were putting the finishing touches on a big season of their own, toppling both the Seattle SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers on the road (though neither was a winning team). The Bucks finished the season on Tuesday and surged into the playoffs before falling to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

March 25-27, 1977

Coach Al McGuire, Jerome Whitehead and Bernard Toone (right) celebrate Marquette's only NCAA national title in 1977.

One national championship makes for a great weekend. What about two? In the same weekend, the UW men's hockey team and the Marquette men's basketball team won NCAA titles, and both did so in dramatic fashion. On Friday, Wisconsin topped New Hampshire in overtime, 4-3 (with the winning goal by Mike Eaves), then won the final on Saturday with a 6-5 overtime win over Michigan, getting the game-winning goal from Steve Alley. Goalie Julian Baretta was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, and it was the Badgers' second national title. 

It was also Saturday that Marquette defeated UNC-Charlotte in the NCAA national semifinal, 51-49, with Jerome Whitehead's buzzer-beating basket off a full-court pass from Butch Lee giving the Warriors the winning points. Whitehead finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, and Marquette went on to defeat North Carolina on Monday night, 67-59, for the program's lone NCAA championship.

For good measure, the Bucks won both their games that weekend, defeating Denver and Detroit, though that Bucks team finished 30-52 and did not make the postseason. Thanks to reader Robert Earle for pointing this out.

Oct. 9-10, 1982

Reader Jeff Britton points out this weekend, which was excellent for the Brewers alone, who rallied to win Game 4 and Game 5 of the American League Championship Series to clinch a spot in the franchise's first (and only) World Series.

Bolstered by a late single from Cecil Cooper, the 4-3 win in Game 5 is one of the biggest moments in state sport history. In Game 4, the Brewers jumped out to a 6-0 lead that was trimmed to 7-5 before two late insurance runs and a 9-5 win. This was the Mark Brouhard game; the reserve outfielder filled in for Gorman Thomas with a single in the second that scored three runs thanks to two errors (Brouhard came around to score on the play) and then hit the two-run homer in the eighth that gave the Brewers breathing room.

That same Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers toppled Ohio State in a rain-soaked contest at OSU, 6-0. It was Wisconsin's first win in Ohio Stadium since 1918, even though quarterback Randy Wright hurt his thumb early in the game.

Feb. 4-6, 2011

Green Bay Packers safety Nick Collins (36) celebrates his first quarter touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas Sunday February 6, 2011.

Naturally, any time a sports team wins the championship, you can probably file that under "great weekend" regardless of the other events. The Packers beat the Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV, and as an added sweetener, the Wisconsin men's basketball team crushed Michigan State earlier in the day, 82-56, behind 30 points from Jordan Taylor. That's the UW team that went to the Sweet 16 and eventually lost to Butler, even if it lost to Penn State in the conference-tournament opener, 36-33. 

Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2011

Wisconsin defensive tackle Jordan Kohout (91) celebrates after sacking Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, in Madison, Wis.

This one is tough to top. The Brewers began their postseason quest with two wins over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, a 4-1 win and 9-4 victory that gave Milwaukee a 2-0 series lead and had Brewers fans envisioning their club's first championship series since 1982. The Wisconsin football team played the same night as Game 1, serving as the perfect nightcap with a 48-17 crushing of Nebraska. The Badgers were ranked No. 7 and the Cornhuskers No. 8, and ESPN's College GameDay came to Madison for the event. On Sunday, the Brewers played at the same time as the Packers, who toppled the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field, 49-23, and moved to 4-0.

Oct. 7-9, 2011

Nyjer Morgan reacts to his walk-off game winning hit in the 10th. The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 at Miller Park Friday October 7, 2011 and advanced to the NLCS.

The following weekend on the calendar wasn't so bad, either, with the Brewers owning the majority of the spotlight. On Friday, Milwaukee competed in one of the most memorable games in franchise history, a 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks that allowed the Brewers to win the series, three games to two. Who can forget Nyjer Morgan's game-winning base hit in the 10th to score Carlos Gomez? On Sunday, the Brewers opened the National League Championship Series with a win over the St. Louis Cardinals, 9-6, hitting three homers in the game (Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt). Oddly enough, that was just the warmup, with the Packers kicking off on Sunday Night Football in Atlanta, scene of the lopsided Packers playoff win just 10 months earlier. The Pack won the rematch, too, 25-14, and moved to 5-0 on the year. The Badgers happened to be on bye that weekend.

Dec. 2-4, 2011

Mason Crosby kicks the game winning field goal as time ran off the clock.  The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 38-35 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford N.J. Sunday December 4, 2011.

Maybe we should just crown 2011 as the winner in all circumstances. The Big Ten Championship Game was a fascinating new element on the landscape in its inaugural year, when Wisconsin held off Michigan State at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Dec. 3, 42-39. Montee Ball ran for three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 3:45 to go, followed by a key 2-point conversion pass between Russell Wilson and Jacob Pedersen. A defensive stop followed, and the Badgers were headed to the Rose Bowl. One night later, the Packers maintained their undefeated season, moving to 12-0 when Mason Crosby hit a field goal with no time left in the Meadowlands, giving Green Bay a 38-35 win over the New York Giants. Dec. 3 also happened to be a huge night for college basketball in the state, with No. 16 Marquette toppling No. 9 Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, 61-54.

April 4-6, 2014

Badger fans show their support in the first half during Wisconsin-Kentucky men's basketball game at the NCAA Final Four Semifinal, Saturday, April 5, 2014,  at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Wisconsin Badgers didn't win Saturday against Kentucky, but it was still an epic experience to watch the program compete in the Final Four for the first time since 2000. Meanwhile, the Brewers were starting the season on the right foot, sweeping through the weekend in Boston and going 3-0 against the Red Sox to open the year 4-2. They were the first three wins in a nine-game winning streak that helped Milwaukee get out to a 10-2 start.

Sept. 20-22, 2019

Jonathan Taylor, Preston Smith and Eric Thames all helped their teams to big wins in 2019.

The Green Bay Packers moved to 3-0 with a win over the Broncos, the Wisconsin Badgers dominated No. 10-ranked Michigan at Camp Randall Stadium and the Brewers swept the Pirates to move into a comfortable playoff position with one week to play. 

It was the second excellent Sunday in a row after the Brewers' staged a thrilling rally against the Cardinals, capped with a grand slam by Ryan Braun down to the final out. Milwaukee eventually went to the wild-card game and lost to Washington on Oct. 1. On that Sunday, the Packers won over the Vikings and, heck, Jerry Kelly won a PGA Champions Tour event.

But this follow-up weekend was better. The Packers won, 27-16, the Brewers won 4-3 over Pittsburgh on Sunday to follow up two 10-1 wins and gave Milwaukee an 86-70 record, and No. 13 Wisconsin took a 28-0 lead over No. 10 Michigan at halftime before prevailing, 35-14. UW moved to 3-0 en route to 6-0 and a spot in the Rose Bowl at season's end.

The Brewers, who emerged from the weekend with four straight wins, went on to win 11 of 12 and made the playoffs comfortably.

A first version of this story ran in 2019

JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or jradcliffe@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.

View Comments