For some, it’s a refresher course, a colorful reminder of a bygone era. To newer fans, it’s a lesson that a team that has seemed stuck for so long has a history of unprecedented success.
ESPN’s Grantland has released a new video in their “30 for 30” documentary series, a short film titled, “Mecca: The Floor That Made Milwaukee Famous.” The film details how the court at the MECCA Arena, the former home of the Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette University basketball, was repainted by the “King of Pop Art,” New York-based Robert Indiana.
Bright and iconic, the eclectic design – that had first been decried as a waste of public funding – was eventually lauded for its unique style. Retired players went so far as claiming that the arena was difficult for visiting players to get used to, providing what former Marquette player (and now Los Angeles Clipper head coach) Doc Rivers called a “real home-court advantage.”
The 14-minute video can be seen in its entirety online.
When the Bucks finally moved to the Bradley Center in 1988, following 18 consecutive appearances in the playoffs, the painted boards were removed and stacked away in storage, a decaying symbol of the Bucks’ prosperity. However, in 2010, the boards were put up for sale online, a posting that caught the eye of longtime fan Andy Gorzalski.
Gorzalski maxed out his credit cards to the tune of $20,000 and bought the floor, eventually re-selling it and having the floor reassembled, for one night only, in August 2013.
The film is a peripheral view of fandom, the sometimes-blind devotion that people can have of their teams and the symbolic connection the painted floor holds to the Bucks’ storied past. It’s a short but meaningful journey, a glimpse at the history of the NBA, when fans packed arenas to see games because professional basketball was rarely televised.
And it’s a journey worth taking, a reminder at how things have changed, and not necessarily for the better. The MECCA Arena was the blending of art, devotion and sport. It was name that evoked a sense of something grand but even that – the stadium is now christened the U.S. Cellular Arena –is also just a part of history. Perhaps in the polished packaging of today’s game, under the auspice of keeping things consistent and making it available to everyone, something seems to have been lost in translation.