MILWAUKEE—Thousands of fans lined downtown Milwaukee streets on Thursday to catch a glimpse of their beloved Bucks in a parade to celebrate the city’s first NBA championship in half a century.
Six police officers on horseback clopped past cheering fans at the head of a procession that included a hook-and-ladder fire truck, occasionally blaring its horn, and open-air buses and flatbed trucks carrying Bucks stars including Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, as well as the trophy they captured Tuesday night with a Game 6 victory over Phoenix.
Fans could be heard chanting, “Bucks in 6,” an odd but popular rallying cry with roots in a former Bucks player’s fruitless prediction in 2013 that the team would take down the playoffs’ top seed at the time.
Antetokounmpo held his son, 1-year-old Liam, atop a bus as fans along the route chanted “MVP!” Later, he shot a basketball into the crowd.
“Milwaukee, we did it baby! We did it!” Antetokounmpo said to a cheering crowd in the Deer District, the area outside the Bucks’ Fiserv Forum. “This is our city, this is our city, man, we did it! Unbelievable.”
Neil and Rachana Bhatia, both 34 and from suburban Waukesha, brought 1-month-old son Zain to the Deer District, saying they wanted to give Zain an early taste of being a Bucks fan.
Neil Bhatia called winning the title “surreal.”
The team’s ascendance has invigorated a Midwestern city far from the league’s more cosmopolitan venues like Los Angeles, Boston or Miami—cities that have traditionally found it easier to attract the game’s top players. One reason fans have embraced Antetokounmpo is his loyalty to the team that drafted him eight years ago when he was just 18.
“He recognizes the city and its quality and he resonates with it,” Timothy Seymour, 20, said of Antetokounmpo. “He really reflects our work ethic. He works hard. And he reflects how we’re only going to get better.”
Police estimated 100,000 people jammed the Deer District for Tuesday night’s Game 6.