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A Tribute to Marques Johnson

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Milwaukee Bucks legend, Marques Johnson, AKA the original “M.J.”, is finally getting his number enshrined in the rafters in Milwaukee.

 

This honor for one of the league’s most talented players in history is well deserved, and well overdue.

Background

Marques Johnson was born on February 8th, 1956 in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He was raised in Los Angeles, where he played high school ball at Crenshaw High School. He won several accolades in high school, including 4-A Division Player of the Year in 1973. After high school, Marques ended up going to college in Los Angeles as well, attending UCLA.

Photo: AP Photo/Wally Fong

Marques spent four seasons with UCLA and won a National Championship in 1975. He was also a two time All-American, National College Player of the Year in 1977, and on the All Pac-8 First Team twice, including winning Pac-8 player of the year in 1977. Marques was a star and was highly touted coming out of college.

Marques With the Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks selected Marques Johnson with the third overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft, picked ahead of greats like Bernard King, Jack Sikma and many others. Right away in his rookie season, Marques was making a big difference. He averaged 19.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and shot 52.2% from the field.

The next three seasons, Marques was selected as an NBA All-Star, and was third in scoring in the NBA in his second season, only behind George Gervin and Loyd Free. Marques spent seven seasons in Milwaukee, and in that time, he was a four-time all-star and put up some gaudy numbers. With the Bucks, his career numbers read: 21.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals and shot 53% from the field.

Marques was also very respected by fellow NBA players and coaches.

First Point Forward

During his time with Milwaukee, Marques Johnson is also credited with coining the term ‘point forward’, a term we hear a lot nowadays, often describing Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and 76ers star Ben Simmons. The Bucks had several injuries to their guards during the 1984 playoffs, so coach Don Nelson then had Marques Johnson running the point, thus becoming a point forward. Being 6’7, somebody of Marques’ size running the point was a very new idea and presented a unique challenge for opponents in terms of matchups.

Marques explains how he coined the term ‘point forward’ below.

Of Marques’ seven seasons in Milwaukee, the Bucks made the playoffs six times. Don Nelson was the coach for Milwaukee the whole time that Marques was a part of the team, with a combined record of 347-227. The Bucks never won a championship while Marques was there, but they were one of the most successful teams in the late 1970s and early 1980s, winning five division titles, largely thanks to Marques Johnson.

Trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, Neck Injury

Following the 1983-84 season, the Bucks traded Marques Johnson, Junior Bridgeman, and Harvey Catchings to the Clippers for Terry Cummings, Ricky Pierce, and Craig Hodges.

Photo: Pinterest

Marques spent three seasons with the Clippers. He earned his fifth and final all-star nod in his first season with the team. In his third season with Los Angeles, however, Marques suffered a severe neck injury in just the tenth game of the season, which signaled the end of his career. He sat out the 1988 and 1989 seasons due to the injury.

Comeback in Golden State

After missing nearly three full seasons due to a neck injury, Marques Johnson signed with the Golden State Warriors and attempted an NBA comeback. As expected, he was not the same player as he was a few years before, but it took years of fighting and a lot of courage to get back on that court. Marques played ten games with Golden State in the 1989-90 season, before officially retiring from the NBA.

Post NBA Career

After retiring from the NBA, Marques appeared in various films, most famously White Men Can’t Jump (1992) starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson.

Since then, Marques has spent some time as a commentator for the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1990s. He then worked for Fox as an NBA analyst. In 2015 found his way back to Milwaukee, working alongside Jim Paschke and Katie George, calling Milwaukee Bucks games on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

Photo: OnMilwaukee.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accolades & Accomplishments

After his great career, Marques Johnson is a very decorated man. Here is a complete list of his accolades throughout his entire basketball career:

  • 1975 NCAA Champion
  • Pac-10 Hall of Honor
  • 1977 Sporting News Player of the Year
  • No. 54 Retired by UCLA
  • 1977 First Team All-American
  • 1977 Wooden Award, Naismith Player of the Year, USBWA Player of the Year, Adolph Rupp Trophy, NABC Player of the Year, UPI College Player of the Year, AP College Player of the Year, Helms Foundation Player of the Year
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team
  • 2x All-NBA Second Team
  • 1979 All-NBA First Team
  • 5x NBA All-Star

Milwaukee Bucks Jersey Retirement

After such a phenomenal career, Marques Johnson’s #8 jersey will finally take its rightful place in Fiserv Forum’s rafters. Marques will join the likes of Oscar Robertson, Junior Bridgeman, Sidney Moncrief, Bob Dandridge, Jon McGlocklin, Bob Lanier, Brian Winters, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as an immortalized Milwaukee Bucks legend.

The jersey retirement ceremony will take place at halftime during the Bucks game on March 24th.

https://twitter.com/Bucks/status/1109479414788571137

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About Nick Niles

I'm Nick Niles! I was born in Green Bay Wisconsin, raised in Appleton Wisconsin, and now I'm back in Green Bay at UW-GB studying Political Science and Public Administration. I have been a huge Bucks fan for as long as I have been alive, and I'm also passionate about writing. Twitter: @Bucks_Deluxe | @Nilesmania

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