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Franklin native reflects on 38 years of ‘Buck-ing’ trends

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Jon McGlocklin had the good fortune in 1965 of landing his dream job straight out college.

Six decades later, he’s still doing what he loves — earning a living in the NBA.

Although he has finally cut back on hours, the Franklin native and former NBA All-Star has worked continually in the league for 49 years — first as a player, then as the TV commentator for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Revered as “Jonny Mac” and the “Original Buck” in his adoptive state of Wisconsin, McGlocklin is in his 38th straight season broadcasting Milwaukee Bucks games. He spent the first 37 of those years working road and home games.

This season, he’s doing primarily home games, a slightly more agreeable pace for a man who has worked the NBA travel grind non-stop since graduating from Indiana University almost 50 years ago. To the best of his knowledge, no contemporary has worked in the league that long without a break.

Not that he’s complaining. Basketball is his passion, and Milwaukee is the center of it.

He just never expected the ride to last so long.

“Forty-nine years. That’s remarkable,” said McGlocklin, who played 11 NBA seasons, including eight with the Bucks. “First of all, the business itself does not allow longevity. They move players and announcers in and out in most places, so the loyalty to me has been phenomenal from the Bucks, and then I’ve given it back to them, too. But 49?

“The guys I work with, we were trying to figure out who has a run like that, and we can’t come up with anybody.”

McGlocklin, 70, is unique not only in that regard, but in Bucks’ history, as well.

Drafted by the Cincinnati Royals in 1965, the former Franklin High School star played two seasons with the Royals and one with the San Diego Rockets before becoming the first player Milwaukee ever signed for its expansion season of 1969-70.

McGlocklin not only scored the first points in franchise history, he was its first player to have his jersey retired when his playing days ended in 1976. No other Milwaukee player has ever worn No. 14.

It’s easy to understand why.

An All-Star after his first season with the Bucks, he was their starting shooting guard on their 1971 NBA championship team. Sharing the backcourt with Oscar Robertson, he averaged 15.8 points per game that season and 53 percent from the field in

14 playoff games during the run up to the title.

By the time he retired at age 32, McGlocklin was an iconic figure in Wisconsin and remains so to this day.

That fact, coupled with his unbreakable bond with the Bucks, is why he continues to broadcast games, even though he would prefer to stay connected in other, less demanding ways. In his heart of hearts, he would like to to retire from broadcasting altogether. But team owner Herb Kohl, a former U.S. Senator and huge McGlocklin fan, has always found a way to coax “The Original Buck” back for another year.

This year was no different, except in one notable way. Having long ago tired of the relentless travel, McGlocklin, with a handful of exceptions and with Kohl’s blessing, is only working home games. Former Bucks star Sidney Moncrief is handling the bulk of the road games.

“I was actually moving toward getting off all the games and doing something else just part-time with the Bucks, maybe an ambassador role or something,” McGlocklin said. “I keep doing it because of that connection, the love of basketball, and this is what Senator Kohl, who has always been great to me, had wanted me do to. So I guess I feel like a soldier that says, ‘OK, this is what I’ll do.’

“It still confines me, and at this age I want to be less confined instead of more confined in the terms of flexibility.”

That’s because the NBA is but one aspect of his busy life.

After retiring from the Bucks, McGlocklin embarked on several successful business ventures and co-founded the charity Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, better known in Wisconsin as the MACC Fund. He devotes much of his offseason time to the non-profit organization, which since its founding in 1976 has raised more than $45 million for childhood cancer and blood disorder research.

“We’re trying to save kids’ lives,” said McGlocklin, who founded the MACC Fund with former Bucks’ announcer Eddie Doucette, whose son was battling leukemia at the time. “That’s what we’re engaged in all the time.”

An active husband, father, grandfather and avid traveler, McGlocklin doesn’t know how much longer he’ll continue to broadcast. Still a huge fan of the game, and the Bucks in particular, he would like to pursue other interests but, at the same time, just can’t imagine life outside the NBA.

For the moment, at least, he doesn’t have to. And with any luck, he never will.

“What I want to do is stay connected with the Bucks,” McGlocklin said. “I can give the job up easily, but I want to stay involved with them as long as I can, even in a very minimal role, but connected. Because I don’t want to be disconnected as long as I’m healthy and breathing. It’s just too emotionally important because it is family. You don’t disconnect from your family. The organization, the logo, there have been players and coaches and general managers and owners all come and go, and I’ve been there through all of it.

“The Milwaukee Bucks, that’s family to me. I’m not trying to be corny or cliché, but it’s family.”

And it’s why he comes back, year after loyal year.

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