The Milwaukee Bucks, currently embroiled in a frustrating attempt to secure financing for a new arena, have unveiled their new court design for the Bradley Center. And in a nod to the franchise’s brilliant run as the East’s second or third-best team for most of the 1980s, the Bucks are referencing the MECCA’s former floor, a Robert Indiana-designed piece of pop art that stood out even on dreary CBS afternoon telecasts of the era.
A renowned pop artist famous for his "LOVE" artwork, Indiana created the design for the Bucks court that was used at the MECCA Arena from 1977-87. Indiana's original floor, with bright colors and a giant "M" flanking each side of the midcourt line, is recognized as one of the largest pieces of pop art ever produced and brought international recognition to Milwaukee as a progressive, forward-thinking city that appreciates art as much as it does sport.
The Bucks' brand new home court at the BMO Harris Bradley Center takes inspiration from Indiana's original pop art design, reproducing the world-famous "M's" bracketing the midcourt line – this time in two shades of hand-stained Wisconsin hard maple – along with the simple, yet unmistakable "Milwaukee" adorning each baseline, just as in Indiana's iconic work of original art. At center court is the Bucks logo, stripped down to the aggressive image of the eight-point white tail buck head that represents the powerful and focused approach of the team. Painted surfaces of the court are almost exclusively green, tying together all eras of the Bucks' 46-year history.
Scope out the new design:
As pictured above, Milwaukee centerpiece Larry Sanders was on hand for the unveiling, and he appears to be on board with the latest design. From Charles F. Gardner at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"It looks really fierce," said Sanders, who loves to design skateboards and is a strong supporter of the local arts scene. "It has a sharp edge to it. Also it looks kind of simple, like we're here to do our job. We're here for business.
"And it's green; it's not too colorful. It's not too distracting. I think it's awesome."
The original MECCA floor which the Bucks played on at the Arena in the late 1970s and 1980s was more colorful. But this court has the M design (in hand-stained hard maple) running through it and has a few subtle touches, including the 1971 NBA championship trophy pictured in the center of one sideline.
"Maybe I expected a little bit more bulkiness but it's not," Sanders said. "It's sleek. With just the deer head right there, it's fearless. It's kind of what we want our team to be around. There's only one face on the team that we all represent."
We may take issue with some of the Bucks’ personnel decisions, but in most other aspects of the Buck culture, it’s easy to be a fan of this team. Their uniforms, both the alternates and regulars, are amongst the league’s best. They boast one of the NBA’s premier broadcasting duos in Jim Paschke and Jon McGlocklin, and the franchise’s social media team is on point.
Not only that, but we were unaware (until Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk pointed it out) that the old Bucks court was a Robert Indiana creation. In August, the AV Club’s Brent Gohde spoke with Andrew Gorzalski, who currently owns the old MECCA floor, about the history of that famous design:
AVC: Why is the floor important to Milwaukee?
AG: As I’ve worked on this project, I’ve kept Milwaukee’s creative legacy in mind. We could never have gone from zero to Calatrava as a community without key intermediate steps. Indiana’s floor is one of the critical milestones for Milwaukee that started to define us as a creative place.
The floor itself is truly the world’s largest pop-art painting, and the only entirely painted basketball floor in the history of the sport. There’s no wood surface exposed. It truly is a painting.
For the unaware, here is Indiana's work:
Sound move, Milwaukee Bucks.