December 19, 2017

Bobblehead Nation 2017 Update

So we are a couple of months into the NBA season and about that same length of time since I posted my Bobblehead Nation post for this calendar year, my annual roundup of all the bobbleheads I can find advertised as in-arena giveaways on various NBA teams' websites. I've written a post like this each of the last four years and I always miss some because some teams just don't roll out their promotional schedules on a timeline convenient to me. Imagine that, right?

So this year to be more of a bobblehead completist I have decided to post an update to my original post based on some new intel from some teams around the league. Turns out I was just missing a couple of teams and there have been some TBDs clarified since my initial post. The Milwaukee Bucks lead the way here with a ton of throwback bobbleheads. Let's get right to it, starting with some that have already come and gone.

Well, before we get to that, let me say just how awesome the James Harden bobblehead the Rockets gave away earlier this month is. OK, now let's get to it.

15 Bob Dandridge (Milwaukee Bucks)
In my first bobblehead post of the season, I covered in detail the Phoenix Suns' plans to celebrate their 50th season in the NBA with a series of five bobbleheads this year, one for each decade that the team has been playing ball. There's another team celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and that's the Milwaukee Bucks, one of the most creative teams out there when it comes to giveaways. The Bucks' reaction to turning 50? Well, I thought based on their initial promotional schedule that it was pretty much nothing. Turns out the Bucks were waiting on the announcement of the good stuff and are actually rolling out seven bobbleheads to celebrate their half century, starting about a month ago.

The Bucks have won just one championship in their 50 years in the league and they did it in 1971, just three years into their existence. Bob Dandridge was the starting small forward on that team after being drafted by the Bucks the prior season. Dandridge played a total nine seasons in Milwaukee (his first eight plus his last year in the NBA). In between? He was a Washington Bullet and picked up a second championship in Washington the very first year he played here in D.C. Many credit Dandridge with being the guy who pushed the Bullets over the edge and got them a title. Maybe it's about time for a Dandridge bobble in D.C. too? Wishful thinking, I know...
6 Sidney Moncrief (Milwaukee Bucks)
It's been so long since the Bucks were really good that it's easy as a fan of today's NBA to imagine them as a perennial doormat or middle of the pack team for their entire 50 year history. Sure they got that one title in 1971 but that was so long ago (I was two years old) and they almost made it to the Finals in the early aughts (lost in the Conference Finals to Philly in 2001) but what about the rest of the 48 years?

Here's the news: the Bucks had a couple of eras where they were really good. They won five division titles in the early and mid 1970s back when they won it all. They also won seven straight division titles from 1980 to 1986. And this was when division titles actually meant something. There were only four divisions back then after all. The guy anchoring most of those teams in the 1980s? Sidney Moncrief.

Over those seven seasons (including his rookie year in 1979-1980) Moncrief started a minimum of 72 games per year. He made the All-Star game five times. He made the All-NBA First Team once and the second team four more times. He flipped that script for the NBA All-Defensive team, making the first team four times and the second team once. Oh, and he was also the Defensive Player of the Year twice en route to getting his number 4 retired in Milwaukee. Earlier this month the folks in Milwaukee got him in bobblehead form.

3 Bob Lanier (Milwaukee Bucks)
After single bobbleheads in November and December the Bucks crank up the heat a bit in January and hand out three. First up? Bob Lanier, who got to the Bucks the same year Sidney Moncrief did. Well, almost.

Lanier was likely already a hall of famer before he got to Milwaukee, posting seven All-Star appearances (including the 1974 All-Star Game MVP award) in his first nine and a half seasons in Detroit before being traded to the Bucks during the 1979-1980 season. In Milwaukee he became part of the core that won the first five of those seven straight division titles. Lanier's number 16 is retired in both Detroit and Milwaukee. In 2006, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Three down, four to go in Milwaukee.
6 D'Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets)
After a violation of the bro code with Nick Young (bye, Iggy!) and (more likely the reason for his L.A. exit) the Lakers drafting Lonzo Ball, former number two overall pick D'Angelo Russell found himself shipped off to Brooklyn and the worst team in the NBA this past offseason. Worst team last year anyway.
So how are things in Brooklyn this year? Well, record-wise about the same as things are for the Lakers? And Russell? Well, up and down. Up because he was putting up good numbers in the beginning of the year and he gets himself a bobblehead in early January. Down because he hasn't played for the Nets since early November with a leg  injury. No timetable for recovery right now but at least he gets a bobblehead, which apparently is some sort of ongoing curse this season for Nets players. Read on...
8 Jeremy Lin (Brooklyn Nets)
As bad as D'Angelo Russell has it with a leg injury and no schedule for getting back on the court, he's got it good compared to Jeremy Lin, who gets his own bobblehead just two days after Russell gets one. Lin's fate this year? One game and 25 minutes played, one ruptured patella tendon in his right knee, gone for the year. Terrible. Awful luck. I'm sure a bobblehead helps this situation in no way.

10 Brian Winters (Milwaukee Bucks)
To this point in the season, the Milwaukee Bucks have celebrated players who played on their early 1970s and early 1980s teams. With the rollout of the Brian Winters bobblehead on January 10, they celebrate both. Winters arrived in Milwaukee as part of a trade for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, after making the All-Rookie First Team with the Lakers during the 1974-1975 season.

If you are thinking being traded for Kareem is kind of a tough act to follow, you'd be correct. Winters was not anything close to the player Kareem was. But he did manage to make a couple of All-Star teams in 1976 and 1978 and did enough I guess in Milwaukee's eyes that they retired his number 32 jersey.
12 Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns)
No, this is not a new bobblehead giveaway date, but at the time I wrote my initial post, the Suns hadn't yet revealed the player to be honored in bobble form this date. All bobblehead dates for the Suns' 50th anniversary season were determined by fan vote. January 12 is 90s night at Talking Stick Resort Arena and of course the fan choice HAD to be Barkley. For the record, I nailed the Suns yet to be announced results in my first post. See March and April below.

17 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks)
So if you are the Bucks, there had to be a dilemma here, right? Do you go with a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar bobblehead or a Lew Alcindor bobblehead? Kareem played six seasons in Milwaukee after being drafted by the team in 1969 out of UCLA and while he had already converted to Islam, he was still known on the basketball court as Lew Alcindor, a name he continued to use publicly until after his second NBA season, the same year the Bucks won their one and only championship.

So...two seasons as Alcindor and four as Abdul-Jabbar but the championship came as Alcindor. What to do? The Bucks, apparently, are choosing Kareem over Lew. I'm not sure I'd make the same choice here but it's probably what Kareem wants. So be it. Regardless, Bucks fans get the best player to every suit up for the team on January 17. I'd be there early that day if I was a Bucks fan.

10 Allen Crabbe (Brooklyn Nets)
If I'm Allen Crabbe, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. The third and final Nets bobblehead recipient this year has so far escaped major injury, unlike D'Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin. I'm sure he's hoping there's no connection between bobblehead nights and injuries in Brooklyn. If there is, he can kiss his season goodbye soon.
Crabbe took the long way to Brooklyn. He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers out of school who sent him to the Portland Trail Blazers that same night. After his third year in the league, the Nets signed him to an offer sheet that was matched by Portland. About a year later they decided Brooklyn could have him anyway, sending him to New York for Andrew Nicholson who they ended up waiving instantly. The Nets are obviously thrilled enough to make sure he has a bobblehead night this year. Let's hope there's no curse. For his sake.

15 Jon McGlocklin (Milwaukee Bucks)
Bob Dandridge won a title in Milwaukee in 1971 and gets a bobblehead this year. So did Lew Alcindor / Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Bucks are handing out a third bobblehead celebrating that team in the form of Jon McGlocklin. McGlocklin is way less celebrated than the other two, having made just one All-Star appearance in his career and winning no significant postseason honors. But he's spent the longest time of any of the three around the Bucks team, serving as a member of the Bucks' broadcasting team for the last quarter century. His number 14 hangs in the rafters of the building where he calls home games.
1 Kyle Korver (Cleveland Cavaliers)
If I nailed the bobbleheads that the Suns would be giving away, I totally whiffed on the Cavs' choices. You just traded for an All-Star (Isaiah Thomas) in the offseason and you go with Kyle Korver and (spoiler alert for March 19 here) Derrick Rose? Sure each of those guys have been on the All-Star team in the past and yes, Thomas is currently injured but he's playing at some point this year, right? Otherwise you traded Kyrie Irving for Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic. I'm stunned there's no Isaiah Thomas bobblehead in Cleveland this year. Show up March 1 for your Korver bobble, Cavs fans.
2 Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns)
I predicted Barkley in January for the Suns' 90s night and I was right. I predicted Nash in March for the Suns' 00s night and I was also right. No flies on me. At least not here. Cleveland's another story. I guess I understand the fan mentality more than I do that of Cavaliers' ownership. Thank God for that!

7 Junior Bridgeman (Milwaukee Bucks)
Six down, one to go for the Bucks. The last Legend of the Rafters bobblehead giveaway in Milwaukee features Junior Bridgeman. Bridgeman (who's full name is Ulysses Lee Bridgeman) came to Milwaukee in 1975 along with Brian Winters in the trade for Kareem and spent 10 years with the Bucks in two separate stints, spending time on the rosters of both the great 70s and 80s teams a la Brian Winters.
In their 50 year history, the Bucks have retired a grand total of eight numbers. Their series this year is called the Legends of the Rafters bobbleheads. But there are only seven giveaways. The missing player with the eighth retired number? Oscar Robertson. What gives?
19 Derrick Rose (Cleveland Cavaliers)
So I've already expressed my surprise about the choice of players to receive bobbleheads from the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in this post. My only other question here is does your new Derrick Rose have doubts about his suitability to be a bobblehead? Is he going to take unexpected absences every so often to contemplate whether he really should be standing with the rest of your Cavs bobbles? I'd still go with Thomas. Just saying.

6 Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
The Suns' 50th celebration wraps up with a bobblehead of a player on their current team on April 6. Who else could it be but Booker? Three for three on Suns predictions. Congrats on your five bobbleheads this year Phoenix fans. It's about all you got this year.

That's it for me this year in the league-wide bobblehead department. There may be some schedules out there yet to post but I'm done searching these things out. All told, there are a ton of bobbleheads for fans to collect this year. For me, I'm waiting for the Wizards solitary bobble in March. Patience...

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