MILWAUKEE — Streets closed, a parking ban was being enforced by police and towing crews and the simmering crowd was setting the pulse for the party outside of Fiserv Forum on Tuesday afternoon.
Two hours before ticket-holding fans were cleared to enter the stadium for Game 6 of the NBA Finals, potentially as eyewitnesses to the Bucks winning the NBA title for the first time in 50 years, automobiles were scant on the main thoroughfares of Brew City.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time,” said Dan Slack, adding he was 10 when the Bucks won the 1971 NBA championship. “I’m just worried about Chris Paul going off.”
Simmering celebration mode became more palpable closer to the stadium but underlying tension was evident in fans voicing caution based on the recent history of the Bucks in the postseason.
Bucks forward Bobby Portis, who said he took less money for a role on a winning team in free agency after stints with the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, was eager for the team to show its appreciation for their fans on Tuesday night. The Bucks were the best team in the Eastern Conference in the regular season at 26-10; the Los Angeles Clippers had the same home record to lead the West.
“Just having these guys here that really believe in us and trust in us,” Portis said last week. “And having 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 fans outside just going crazy and having 17,000 inside, it’s just a great time to be a Buck right now and it’s a great time for the city of Milwaukee. It’s real diverse out there. See a lot of people just mingling and being together. I think just us winning and impacting the city has brought the city together.”
The usual 20,000 fans permitted in the concert style, standing-room open lot adjacent to the stadium known as the Deer District multiplied to 65,000 on Tuesday.
Layered lines for souvenirs and gift shop access were not as deep or wide as the ushered assemblies for a frosty Leinenkugel’s. Temperatures were in the mid-80s and humidity high as the Finals played into late July to accommodate the second consecutive COVID-impacted postseason.
For Bucks fans, it could be worth the wait. A loss Tuesday sends the best-of-seven to a deciding game in Phoenix on Thursday night.
“If we win, great. If we don’t, we have one more chance,” Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “But if we win, it would be nice to celebrate with the fans inside and outside and with our families, because this is something historical that is happening in the city right now.”