Milwaukee, We Need Y’all Energy

Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

Bob-by! Bob-by! Bob-by!!

17,000 of y’all in the arena, chanting my name.

Some things in this game will stay with you forever, and Game 5 against Atlanta is one of mine. No Giannis. Backs against the wall. That wasn’t just my moment, you feel me? That moment was for my team, for Milwaukee, and especially for my mom.

I was never supposed to have a moment like that. 

My life, it’s like a made up story, man. In my 26 years of living, I done been through it all. The highs and lows and everything that comes with that. 

And by the way, I’ve seen y’all memes! 

Bobby Portis look like an actor playing a basketball player in a movie!

It’s funny man. It’s all love. I actually used to hate people calling out my “crazy eyes” and all that when I was a kid, but now I think that’s just what makes me me. I’ve kind of turned a negative into a positive.

But if I’m being honest, y’all don’t know how much truth there is to that movie meme. People thinking that I don’t really look like a NBA player don’t even surprise me, because people never saw this for me, you know? You know how some players say like, “Man, my teachers used to laugh at me when I said I was going to the league.” Mannn, listen, my teachers used to laugh they ass off. They never pictured me hooping up here on this stage, at this level. 

Bobby Portis is not supposed to be here. 

Now, timeout. I already know what y’all thinking. I already hear the haters: 

Bobby, y’all down 0–2 in the Finals. Why are you telling us all this now?

Listen, when you done lived a life like mine, you see things differently.

Bobby Portis Jr. | Milwaukee Bucks | The Players' Tribune
Steven Ryan /Getty Images

I look at the score, and I see somewhere I already done been before. And I’m not just talking about basketball.

I see Little Rock, Arkansas.

I see growing up in 18 different houses when I was a kid.

I see how my mom was grinding every day to make the most out of a bad situation.

I can still picture how I used to walk out to the car after practice and find my mama sleep in the driver’s seat. She’d get up at three, four in the morning to go to work, so waiting in the car for me was the only time she could rest, and she’d just be knocked out, man. I felt bad waking her up.

I’d be on the window like tap, tap, tap. “Mama!” Knocking or whatever. And no joke, she’d get up, drive us home, cook some food, help my little brothers with their homework, then finally get like two, three hours of sleep — and then start the same routine over the next day.

So, you wanna talk about down

Ain’t nothing you can tell me about it because I was born down. All the underdogs out there know what I’m talking about.

That’s why I’m writing this. I got a message for our TEAM, our FANS, and all the DOGs out there.

Being an underdog ain’t about basketball or sports. It’s just a way of life, man. 

When you come from where you come from, and when you go through all the obstacles that try to derail you, all the people that try to knock you off your square, and you overcome them to get where you going? That’s a dog right there.

Long as you believe in YOU, it doesn’t matter what nobody else has to say about you.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think people really know our team. They don’t know this Milwaukee Bucks team. The locker room. The culture. The thing that people don’t understand about the Milwaukee Bucks is, we some dogs, bruh. I always say one of my favorite players growing up was Kevin Garnett. That’s the kinda energy we trying to bring to the building. That’s what we on, you feel me? That’s why you can’t count this team out, even down 0–2. We ALL been here before. If you think that’s funny, ask yourself a question…. Where Brooklyn at? 

We got five games left to win four games. It’s as simple as that. And it’s the NBA — it’s not gonna be easy. Nothing ever comes easy in this league.

But we sacrificed a lot to get here, man. Every dude in that locker room. So we not leaving NOTHING in the tank, you feel me? We gotta empty it out. But that’s cool with us, because this is a team that loves to grind. This is a group of guys who took the long way to this moment.

Not leaving nothing in the tank. | Bobby Portis | Milwaukee Bucks | The Players' Tribune
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

I remember one day in 10th grade, I went up to my long-time trainer Marcus, who’s like a father figure in my life, and I said I wanted to be a McDonald’s All-American, a Jordan Brand Classic player, I wanted to be on the Nike Hoop roster…. I had all these goals written down in my phone, and I handed him this list, and he just looked at me like I was crazy. 

This is my trainer, man. 

And he’s holding my phone, squinting at the screen, looking back at me like, For real? 

I’m looking at him like, Forreal!!! 

I still got that list on my phone, bruh. 

Man, by the end of 12th grade, I had checked off everything I wanted to do. I got a scholarship to college, became a Razorback.

Then I got drafted by the Bulls, and in front of me I had Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and those guys. They were vets. And the Bulls had been on a big time run from like 2010 to 2016. So basically when I showed up, I was just eating DNPs, man. 

I went through a period where I was kinda getting down on myself because I wasn’t playing a lot. I would play one game and get like 10 DNPs straight. I’ll be honest, that kind of derailed me a little bit. It was just a new situation for me. But Jimmy and Joakim and Taj especially, because we were neighbors, that group really molded me as a young player. They were like, “Things happen in this league all the time. Players get hurt, players get traded. Everybody gets their opportunity at some point, but you gotta be ready for it.”

That’s how I learned to love the grind. Getting on the treadmill or the bike and conditioning after games. It was a valuable lesson coming into the league.

And I gotta be real with y’all, man. I know my rep. I think for a long time I was just seen as that guy who punched his teammate. I wasn’t stressed about the situation because the guys that were there knew the real story, but I think it ended up being misconstrued in the media, and I guess that just became my storyline for a while. That’s how people saw me.

I know my rep. I think for a long time I was just seen as that guy who punched his teammate.

Bobby Portis Jr.

But that was then. That was the journey. I came to Milwaukee last November, and almost instantly everything just started clicking into place.

I had gotten some really nice offers for team-option deals, but at some point I had to stop and ask myself, Do I want to just keep doing these team-option deals and have them have all the control over me, or do I want to control my own destiny? 

I wanted to be on a team that really, really wanted me. And I was looking at all the teams I thought I could fit on and make an impact. Watching the Bucks last year in the bubble, I felt like that could be my spot. A team with big aspirations. And a team that needed a big that could do what I do. Bring that big energy. So it was just like a match made in heaven. I signed with the Bucks, and it’s been one of the best decisions of my career.

I found a coach in Coach Bud that has stayed on me about defense, and now that’s something I feel like I do well. Having guys like Khris and Jrue that stay on me about getting as many rebounds as I can. And then having a guy like Giannis that wants me to go out and shoot the ball, and just go out there and be myself. All of those things have made my job that much easier, every single day. 

It’s made it fun to play this game and be on this team chasing this ring.

Bobby Portis Jr. | Milwaukee Bucks | The Players' Tribune
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Listen, I ain’t gon lie. Everybody’s really, really locked in on this thing. This is the most locked in team I’ve ever been on. Y’all think I’m playing like, Oh, we locked in, we locked in. Nah, man I really mean that.

I remember back in March, when P.J. got traded to our team, and Jeff had signed right after. When they got here, I remember it was kind of weird for them because people on our team talked and stuff, but it wasn’t really constant conversation going on like on some teams. Everybody was just locked in on doing their job and playing their role.

So P.J. and Jeff walk in the gym, and they’re like “Damn, nobody talks around here? Y’all that locked in?!” So P.J. was like “Shiiiit, let me lock in too then, man!!!!! Let me lock in!!!!!”

Man, we were rolling, just crying laughing.

The way I see it, it’s like this:

We’ve been playing basketball since December. Some guys have been playing basketball all year long. The off-season was only a month and a half, two months, so basketball came back around pretty fast. Everybody’s tired all around. So at this point, it’s not just about skill. It’s not just about who’s the better team. It’s about whose willpower is the strongest, you feel me? Who wants it more? Who’s still sacrificing things, at this given moment? 

We got two weeks. Two weeks left in the season to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy. I need our fans to know we still believe. And we need y’all to believe, too. I tell myself every day, Can’t have any excuses, any regrets. In a year, two years, can’t be saying should’ve did this and should’ve did that. It’s about living in this moment, right here. And enjoying it.

And in case y’all forgot, we got one of the best players in the world in Giannis. And then he has two great guys, right next to him, Jrue and Khris, that can close a game out, too. Plus a hell of a supporting cast, with me, Pat, Brook, Jeff, P.J., Bryn. Bottom line is, we have a lot of guys on this roster that can have a moment in the finals. 

Listen, that’s all it takes. That’s what this whole thing is about. 

Bobby Portis | Milwaukee Bucks | The Players' Tribune
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

I mean, how many people left us for dead after Giannis went down? 

I remember coach coming to tell me that I was going to start in Game 5, and I just had so much belief. One thing about me, I don’t get nervous. I work too hard to get nervous.

There was no way in hell I was going to go out there and let my team down, let my family down, let the organization down, my state down, and big fella Giannis, because I know how hard he works. Knowing how bad he wants this, how much the fans want this…. I wasn’t trying to be nothing or create a moment. I just wanted to play my role to the best of my ability. I wanted to be myself. I wanted to show up for Milwaukee. I wanted to bring y’all that KG energy. 

And y’all gave me that energy right back. 

“Bob-by! Bob-by! Bob-by!!!!

17,000 of y’all chanting for the dude from Little Rock. 

My mom hugged me after that game like she always does, and I was just so happy she had been there to see that moment. Having a number one fan like that, that’s been supporting me since I was a little kid, and knowing that she’s always going to be in my corner and have my back, that just makes it that much easier for me to go out and ball and just be myself, because my mom is living her dreams through me. For her to have one of her children go out there, and the entire arena and outside is calling his name — the kid she used to drive to practice and then sleep in the car until he was done? I know that meant everything to her. 

Even when I’m done playing basketball, and my mom’s 70 years old and I’m 50, we’re going to be talking about that. 

Knowing our guys, I already know we have a lot more moments like that ahead of us.

We got two weeks. Two weeks left in the season to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Bobby Portis Jr.

You can’t put a number on how many makes or misses you’re gonna have on any given night. You just don’t know. Every game is different. 

But I think two things for sure that we can hang our hat on is: 1) being a complete basketball team, playing both ends of the floor, and 2) just blowing it out. Blowing the whole motor out, not leaving anything in the gas tank.

To the fans: Stick by us, man.

When we was down 0–2 against Brooklyn, and the world was telling us that it was over, was it OVER? 

Hell no, man. 

It’s never over.

Milwaukee, PULL UP.