65,000 fans cheer long-awaited win

The Deer District heaved with delirious fans who had gathered to follow the game.
The Deer District heaved with delirious fans who had gathered to follow the game.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MILWAUKEE • For fans like Tom Cogdall, a 63-year-old retired Army officer who lives in Milwaukee, the city's second National Basketball Association (NBA) championship was a long time coming.

"I remember 1971 - that's 50 years. We needed it," he said, sitting outside Brothers Bar & Grill, just steps from Fiserv Forum, where the Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA title in five decades on Tuesday night.

The victory set off a wild citywide celebration that long-suffering supporters described as mixing relief and exhilaration.

Cogdall said he arrived at the bar and waited in line five hours before game time with friends to ensure they would get seats.

Streets across Milwaukee were packed with 65,000 Bucks fans, more than 10 per cent of the city's population, crowded together in the Deer District near the stadium to follow the game.

A police officer, who asked that his name not be used, said there were about 1,000 officers from the city and state of Wisconsin to provide security.

There was a handful of arrests, mostly for intoxication, but no violence was reported as of the end of the game.

The Water Street Bar District, also close to the arena, was heaving with delirious fans into the night, as was Brady Street, known for its trendy shops, restaurants and bars.

Many supporters wore team colours, shirts that read "Bucks in Six" and "Fear The Deer", and jerseys of Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) and newly-crowned Finals MVP.

Chris and Camron Crumble went to Water Street to soak in the atmosphere and watch the game outside Bar One.

"Milwaukee hasn't had anything this big in a long time," said Chris, 52. "To do this with my son, for him to experience this with me, is unbelievable."

Isaiah Tyler, a 43-year-old painter who was born and raised in Milwaukee, added: "This is history. I grew up here and have gone to a lot of lousy games - so this is the pay-off."

The African-American also felt the Bucks' win brought the city together after a tough time with the coronavirus pandemic and fallout from the George Floyd racial riots.

"Milwaukee is a very segregated city, so to see us all together, all races, for one cause, this is how the world should be," said Tyler.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2021, with the headline '65,000 fans cheer long-awaited win'. Subscribe