When you think of the current Sixers and Bucks rivalry, it obviously revolves around Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Process versus the Greek Freak. Godzilla versus King Kong. Both have climbed a steep ladder toward NBA superstardom, while one knocks them over when frustrated after bad games. Ok, just kidding. What’s not to kid about is the fact that the franchises who drafted them have gone to battle over a time period that spans decades. Let’s reflect on this historic rivalry between the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.
A Sixers-Bucks rivalry retrospective
Let’s go with some astounding numbers first. Since these teams have existed, they’ve played 221 times. The Bucks have the edge, winning 117 games. The Sixers have won 104. The most points the Sixers scored on Milwaukee came in March 1969 where they put up 143 on the Bucks. Milwaukee, just two years later, scored 142 points on the Sixers.
You wouldn’t expect such high scoring games back then, but consider that Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, and Chet Walker, each scored more than 25 points in that game. In the Bucks’ high scoring game, Kareem, Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson combined for 52 points. Whoever had tickets to those games got quite a show and then some.
Over the years, the Sixers and Bucks have played in the playoffs 49 times. The Sixers have the edge though in this category, winning 29 games over Milwaukee in the postseason. Since 1970, out of the nine series the two teams competed in the playoffs, the 76ers have won six.
The majority of the postseason series between the two rivals took place in the 80s, where the Sixers played Milwaukee in the playoffs an astounding six different times. These were the years of Julius Erving and a young Charles Barkley. For the Bucks, they ran lineups that included great players like Sidney Moncrief, Ricky Pierce, and Terry Cummings.
In the 1981 Eastern Conference Semifinals that went seven games, Dr. J. averaged 24.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. Marques Johnson had a monster series himself, putting up 24.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. The Sixers won in seven games, only to lose in the conference finals against the eventual NBA champion, Boston Celtics.
In the playoffs, Charles Barkley and Terry Cummings squared off quite often. They played each other a total of 16 times in this Milwaukee/Philly postseason rivalry. In head-to-head matchups during the postseason, Barkley averaged 23.4 points and 13 rebounds, while Cummings averaged 16.2 points and 6.8 rebounds.
What is the most exhilarating playoff series in recent memory? If you were around during the fantastic 2001 postseason run for the 76ers, you should recall the last time Philadelphia and Milwaukee went toe-to-toe. The Sixers won the series in seven games and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in over a decade that year.
During that historic battle, two Hall of Famers squared off. They were actually college rivals in the Big East in the mid 1990s. One went to UConn and the other attended Georgetown. Who lit up the box scores for these two teams? None other than Allen Iverson and Ray Allen.
Iverson averaged 30.1 points per game, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. On the Bucks, the top scorer was Ray Allen, putting up 27.1 points a night, along with 3.3 boards and 5.4 assists. Talk about a battle for the ages.
This rivalry is in excellent hands moving forward. Two of the most dominant players in the game today wear a Sixers and Bucks uniform. Obviously, I’m speaking of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. These two internationally born players have shown why NBA basketball has such a huge impact on a global scale.
By the numbers, the two versatile big men have dueled 13 times. The Bucks hold the most victories with Giannis as their leader, taking eight out of 13 games. Giannis also holds the advantage in almost every statistical category. He has put up dominant numbers versus the 76ers in those games, averaging 32.1 points, 13.9 boards, 6.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.8 blocks. Not bad for a kid that barely spoke English when he arrived to the states and weighed as much as a gyro his rookie season.
Embiid put up great numbers in this rivalry, too. Although the two weren’t always guarding each other, Embiid averaged 27.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.8 blocks. Not bad for a kid whose father wasn’t thrilled about an NBA career for his son.
From Cameroon to Philadelphia and Greece to Milwaukee, these two players not only have their respective franchises in amazing positions to compete for a title every year, but they have become icons in the game of basketball.
Needless to say, the Sixers versus Bucks rivalry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If it is, the best way to describe its destination is to greater heights, which is good news for Adam Silver and NBA fans around the world.