As the final buzzer sounded in Milwaukee on Sunday, Glenn (Big
Dog) Robinson embraced Hornets forward Jamal Mashburn, then
tilted back his head to revel in the sight of 18,717 whooping
admirers at the Bradley Center. The Bucks had made Robinson the
top pick in the 1994 draft in hopes that he would turn them into
a contender. Seven seasons later he had finally delivered them to
the Eastern Conference finals. "I've looked at Jordan, Magic and
Bird, knowing they played their whole careers for one team,"
Robinson said after Milwaukee's 104-95 win in Game 7 of the
conference semis. "They took their team to the next level, and
that's what I've always wanted to do."
For years the 6'7" Robinson has been dismissed as a
one-dimensional player whose leadership didn't extend beyond the
scoring column. He has also suffered in comparisons with Jason
Kidd (chosen No. 2 in '94) and Grant Hill (No. 3), who quickly
earned praise for their all-around games. As the cast surrounding
Robinson improved--new teammates such as Ray Allen and Sam
Cassell, a new coach in George Karl, a new management team led by
G.M. Ernie Grunfeld--Robinson improved with it, helping Milwaukee
reach the postseason in each of the past three years. Still, when
some experts dismissed the Bucks before the playoffs as jump
shooters disdainful of defense and lacking in mental toughness,
it was easy to see their indictment as a big dig at the Big Dog.
That toughness was put to the test last week. After their fans
booed them in a 94-86 Game 5 loss at home, the Bucks teetered
toward elimination in Game 6 at Charlotte, falling behind by 15
points in the first half. Robinson then began his campaign to
change public opinion once and for all, pouring in a
career-playoff-high 29 points in a 104-97 victory. After two
quarters on Sunday, Milwaukee trailed 47-44 in part because
Allen, Cassell and Robinson had reverted to one-on-one
basketball. The Big Three started rotating the ball and turned up
the heat defensively in the second half, with Robinson staying
tight on Mashburn. In addition to finishing with 29 points, Big
Dog held Mashburn to 7-of-25 shooting from the field, and the
Bucks set a team playoff record with 13 blocked shots. "All
series we were better defensively than we were shooting the
ball," said Karl, who seemed rather amazed by that.
On his way out of the arena on Sunday night, Robinson ran into
Senator Herb Kohl, who has owned the Bucks for 16 years. As they
spoke, Kohl looked up at the Big Dog as if looking upon a son. He
told Robinson that he had shaken hands after the game with
Milwaukee forward Darvin Ham. "Do you know the first thing Darvin
said?" the senator asked with a big smile. "He said, 'I am really
happy for Glenn.'"
"That makes me feel so good," Robinson said as he headed toward
the playoffs' penultimate round--which, by the way, is a level
that neither Kidd nor Hill has reached.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER