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Bob-by, Bob-by, Bob-by (Dandridge)
Make no mistake: There are multiple beloved Bobbys in Milwaukee Bucks lore and the original — Bobby Dandridge — will officially become a Hall of Famer this weekend
Bob Dandridge made four trips to the NBA Finals in the 1970s, won championships with two different teams and had the sort of lasting impact in Milwaukee that led the Bucks to retire Dandridge's No. 10 in 2015.
As a rugged two-way forward who found a lane to flourish as a Buck, even as he operated (in his own words) "in the shadows public relations-wise" of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, Dandridge surely would have inspired the same sort of "Bob-by, Bob-by, Bob-by" chants that Bobby Portis regularly gets now in Brewtown with the NBA's reigning champions.
"Oh no, no, no," Dandridge said with a laugh Thursday afternoon, between flights on his way to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
"My time was a little different."
Nearly 40 years after he retired as a player, it's Dandridge's time once again. On a four-way phone call in May with Hall of Fame kingpins Jerry Colangelo and John Doleva, as well as his former Bucks general manager Wayne Embry, Dandridge, 73, learned that he had been selected by the Veterans Committee as part of the Hall's 2021 class.
Two months later, with Dandridge attending a few playoff games alongside other members from the 1970-71 title team, Milwaukee won the club's first championship in 50 years.
"Most of my history has been in Milwaukee," Dandridge said. "For me to go into the Hall of Fame at the same time they win the championship after 50 years, everything has just sort of lined up for me personally."
There will be more familiar names on your screens Saturday night when the 2021 induction ceremonies from the MassMutual Center air on NBA TV. Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace and Chris Webber are stars of more recent NBA vintage who will be inducted. Bill Russell will be inducted for the second time — this time for his coaching — and Toni Kukoč is sure to have everyone's attention as 2021’s international honoree … with Michael Jordan and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf on the dais with him as silent presenters.
Of course, me being nostalgic me, I will be fixated on the posthumous induction of Cotton Fitzsimmons, who was the last coach of my Buffalo Braves in 1977-78, when Tiny Archibald sustained an Achilles tear in a preseason game and never logged a regular-season second beside Randy Smith before the franchise crushed a whole generation of Buffalonians by moving to San Diego. And I will be eager, as a child of the 1970s who remains entranced by the NBA’s humble status in those years, to see Dandridge finally reach the sport's pinnacle with The Big O at his side as a presenter.
Dandridge was already a Washington Bullet when I really remember becoming aware of him. True unrestricted free agency did not take hold in the NBA until the late 1980s, but Dandridge — sought by the Bullets to guard Philadelphia’s Julius Erving — was one of the league’s first free agents of any kind and helped Washington win it all in 1977-78 in his first season alongside Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. I can still see my first Dandridge basketball card (basic mug shot on the front; electric green stats panel on the back) as if I just opened the pack.
He was a rookie in Milwaukee in 1969-70 with Abdul-Jabbar, who was then known as Lew Alcindor, and touted by countless peers over the years as a player who never received the notoriety he deserved. Dandridge was the last of the Bucks' original Big Three to leave Milwaukee after Robertson retired following the 1973-74 season and Kareem forced a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in June 1975.
"One question I always asked Kareem was, 'Why did he leave me in Milwaukee?' " Dandridge said. "His reply always was, 'There was only one plane ticket.' "
They were drafted 44 spots apart in 1969: Alcindor as the No. 1 overall pick and Dandridge at No. 45 (in the fourth round) out of Norfolk State. Despite his gaudy statistics in college (32.3 PPG as a senior), Dandridge said "none of the white scouts from the NBA came to see me play" at his historically Black university that was playing then in Division II.
In 13 NBA seasons, Dandridge averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game to supplement his stout defense. As he remembers it, projections were far more modest when his career began.
"They said he may make the team," Dandridge recalled with another laugh.
Those humble beginnings are partly why Dandridge considers current Bucks star swingman Khris Middleton (drafted No. 39 overall by Detroit in 2012) a kindred spirit.
"What I admire about Middleton is the recognition, or the non-recognition, doesn't keep him from playing his game," Dandridge said.
You can likewise count him as a big fan of Portis and the devotion he rouses from Bucks fans.
”Portis is a special type of guy, and Milwaukee is the type of city and fans that embrace not only the superstars on the team but the entire team,” Dandridge said. “The hardcore fan knows that Portis was as important as anybody in winning the championship. He’s a fortunate guy to be embraced by a city like Milwaukee and I’m glad they brought him back.
“I think it’s the ultimate compliment when the fans look forward to a guy who’s a non-starter coming into the game because they recognize his significance. It’s the ultimate salute that a player can get in this league.”
The ultimate, for the perennially underappreciated Bobby Dandridge, is also here at last.
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After the candor he uncorked in an interview with my former Walt Disney World bubble neighbor Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, Paul Pierce moved to the forefront of the Hall’s 2021 class in terms of Speech Anticipation Factor heading into Saturday night's induction ceremonies in Springfield. There's no telling what Pierce might say after his unrepentant breakdown of the Instagram video of his partying with strippers that led to Pierce’s dismissal by ESPN.
Some clarification is needed, though, regarding one of the more absorbing stories Pierce shared with Mannix: How Pierce directly lobbied Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to bring him to Dallas … years after Pierce slipped to Boston at No. 10 in the 1998 draft because those same Mavericks had unexpectedly swooped in to pilfer No. 9 Dirk Nowitzki, Boston's dream target, in a draft-day trade with Milwaukee.
Pierce told Mannix that he crossed paths with Cuban in the spring of 2007 and billed himself as the Mavericks' missing piece. The belief within the Mavericks' organization is that the encounter actually took place in Las Vegas in the summer of 2006. Pierce was there after the Celtics missed the playoffs entirely and he ran into various key Dallas figures who were hoping a detour to Sin City could distract them from the devastation of their collapse in the 2006 NBA Finals to Miami after taking a 2-0 (and nearly 3-0) series lead. Pierce let Cuban know how desperate he was for a fresh start. The Mavericks were undeniably tantalized by the idea of turning Nowitzki and Pierce into a tag team no one would have imagined when they were drafted.
Yet the chance to actually trade for Pierce, league sources say, didn't materialize until years later. The Danny Ainge-led Celtics were unwilling to entertain a Pierce-to-Dallas deal in 2006, swung big moves instead to acquire Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in the summer of 2007 and were NBA champions at the end of the trio's first season together.
The proposed three-team trade that Cuban acknowledged on Twitter this week came a few years later, I'm told, after Allen had bolted for Miami and Ainge began plotting the dismantling of Boston’s veteran core. The Mavericks had already won a championship by this point, too, and thought they were on the brink of a deal at last to pair Nowitzki and Pierce.
When that trade with the undisclosed third team crumbled, Boston pivoted to a blockbuster deal with Brooklyn in June 2013 that sent both Pierce and his close pal Garnett to the Nets to play for a rookie coach named Jason Kidd, who was just hired as the Mavericks' new coach on June 28.
The sight of Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing in the audience for Derek Jeter's Baseball Hall of Fame inductions earlier this week had me delving into (increasingly shaky) memory banks for my own round of story time.
Fortunately I wrote about this relatively soon after it happened, so I had dependable documentation to consult.
In May 2010, I was hearing rumblings that Jeter was being lobbied by Jordan to join the Charlotte Bobcats' ownership group. Not knowing how else at the time to confirm the veracity of the tip or debunk it, I went to a Yankees-Rangers game in Arlington, Texas, in hopes of asking Jeter face-to-face.
After waiting out the usual pack of Yankees beat writers to pose some Charlotte questions, Jeter shot the story down forcefully, saying: "I have not been asked, buddy.”
He made it clear in the same interview that his ownership aspirations were firmly focused on baseball, which came to fruition in September 2017 when Jeter became the chief executive officer and part-owner of the Miami Marlins.
(As a bonus bit of nostalgia, this tale can be found in its original form in one of my old Weekend Dime columns — which still lives online — from January 2012. The Weekend Dime concept was largely conceived by my former ESPN NBA supervisor Royce Webb, who has been hired by Substack and asked to edit my drivel again. Brave dude.)