Bucks Lead

Khris Middleton Deposits Milwaukee Greatness


Recently, the US government passed a stimulus bill that gave many citizens $1,200. Only $1,200? That’s barely enough for a Giannis jersey! Thankfully, the Bucks weren’t as stingy when they locked up their second-best player. Before the 2019-20 season started, Milwaukee wisely gave Khris “money” Middleton a rich $178 million contract. Does that sound too high? Think again – the only sound Jon Horst and his Bucks will hear when play resumes is the cash register as Khris again decimates the NBA. With games stopped, however, now is an ideal time to reexamine how Middleton progressed from overlooked acquisition to underrated alpha-Buck.

Quiet Beginnings

The Pistons drafted Khris 39th in 2012, and he played modestly for a 29-53 team. In the offseason, Milwaukee asked for his inclusion in the Brandon Knight/Brandon Jennings trade. While Knight amounted to little more than a transaction asset for Michael Carter-Williams (and MCW just a chip flicked for Tony Snell), Middleton chose to start working. He refreshed a terrible 2013-14 team with 30 minutes and 12.1 points a game. In a morale-boosting win against Washington, he exhibited modest potential and pleasing deference to his teammates (the latter hasn’t changed).

When Jason Kidd forced Milwaukee to at least try, Middleton rose.

Mint Opens

December 15th, 2014 marked a turning point. Most Bucks fans assumed it was a negative swerve with Jabari Parker’s injury. However, it was, instead, a very positive confidence boost for Khris. With all hope seemingly lost in house-of-horrors Phoenix, he skillfully saved the season from momentum-killing rumination.

A stinky sports rival to The Lead argues the play was “stupid luck.” The only stupid thought from the promising day was that Khris had peaked. Later, just in time for the playoffs, the Aggie electrified his new city with arguably the wildest shot in team history.

The clutch shots ensured the Bulls, trying to sweep Milwaukee in the first round, would pay too much attention to Khris, allowing Jerryd Bayless to save the season.

While the Bucks weren’t ready to win a series, Middleton’s mint switched from Washingtons to Lincolns.

9-5 Consistency

The Bucks had modest success from the Bulls series through 2018, and Middleton gradually improved. Much to the disappointment of SpongeBob and Good Burger fans, he explained there’s no secret formula to his success. Instead, muscle memory, film study, and adjustment to pro play shaped his skills.

In a crucial Game 3 win when his Bucks were ready to return to the playoffs, his hot hand against the improving Raptors ensured Toronto was not ready to come back from 41-17.

In 2017-18, “money” averaged 36.4 minutes and a (then) career-high 20.1 points a game. However, the #7 seed Bucks were tired of 7/8 seed or bust. Although in a losing effort, his awe-inspiring performance in Game 1 in Boston gave Milwaukee fans a spark of optimism.

After Boston vanquished the underperforming Bucks, it appeared Khris was just a great player for a mediocre team. Thankfully, Mike Budenholzer ended hunting season and started a stampede to NBA glory.

All-Star And All-Milwaukee

From 2018 to today, Middleton earned two All-Star invitations and officially became a Milwaukean’s hero. Some think the NBA favored him because of Giannis’s MVP campaign. The Bulls disagree.

As the 2020 Bucks rushed to a near-70 win pace, Middleton’s numbers leaped. Now, he was producing more money than Monopoly’s Hasbro. He recorded a career-high 51 points in a 151-131 zapping of Washington in January, silencing critics. Unfortunately, the NBA shut down the season because of the coronavirus. Thankfully, money gave fans more than just YouTube nostalgia. He also set an honorable altruistic example.

Khris gives generously to Milwaukee charities and recently explained his generosity and mid-range niche.

In March, Middleton gave a sizable $100,000 to Fiserv Forum workers to help during the stoppage. Most impressive of all, he refused to crow about his donation selfishly. He’s only tweeted four times since the gift, most recently to compliment his girlfriend on Mother’s Day.

It’s natural for our minds to wander from basketball with no games right now. However, Khris won’t let his mind or heart wander from his beloved Milwaukee. And when the lights go back on in the Forum, he’ll assuredly dust off the greenback printing press and cause runaway hyperinflation on the scoreboard, while bankrupting his skeptics.

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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