The Milwaukee Bucks Have the NBA’s Oldest Guard. He’s Made of Polyester – WSJ

admin on 31 January, 2018

MILWAUKEE— Greg Monroe still recalls the chilly greeting on his first day with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Mr. Monroe tried to strike up a conversation with the security guard stationed at the entrance of the Bucks’ practice gym. The guard was still in his teens, but appeared much older. He was seated, head cocked, sleeves rolled, legs crossed with a challenging stare.

Mr. Monroe got no response. The guard didn’t even move.

“He scared the hell out of me,” said Mr. Monroe, who at 6-foot-11 is hard to ignore.

Like most people associated with Milwaukee’s basketball team, Mr. Monroe eventually warmed up to “Art,” who is made from cast polyester resin, painted in flesh tones and dressed in a uniform with hat, tie, badge, whistle, keys, handcuffs and polished shoes.

The Bucks’ eerily lifelike statue was created by Marc Sijan, a Milwaukee sculptor, whose studio is filled with figures that appear to be holding their breath. Most of Mr. Sijan’s creations are in galleries around the world. Only one belongs to a National Basketball Association team.

“It’s not something that I think will go down in art-history books,” Mr. Sijan said. “Although maybe it will.”

Art’s story began in 1997, when Herb Kohl, now a retired four-term Wisconsin senator and the former Bucks owner, commissioned a piece from Mr. Sijan for the entrance of the team’s practice facility, “Something interesting,” he said.

He suggested a Bucks player. Mr. Sijan had his own idea.

“I went ahead with a 7-foot basketball player to surprise him,” he said.

Mr. Sijan tracked down a large man he had seen play for the Harlem Globetrotters. He said he worked on his 7-footer for roughly six months before he showed the finished player to the Bucks. “They didn’t nibble,” Mr. Sijan said. “It’s probably on tour in some museum in Europe.”

Mr. Sijan went back to work and found his inspiration in an older Wisconsin man. Mr. Kohl was delighted with the piece, officially titled “Seated Security Guard,” and which Mr. Sijan named Art.

He never intended for Art—or any of his sculptures—to trick people. “I’m an artist,” Mr. Sijan said. “I’m not a magician.”

Art has turned out to be the longest-tenured Buck working without a raise, Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said, which counts for something for a team whose payroll has increased by nearly $100 million over the two decades since the security guard’s arrival.

He also has aged incredibly well despite working day and night over that time. Some say Art is slouching. Bucks’ executives insist otherwise. “He’s comfortably postured,” team president Peter Feigin said.

The most striking thing about Art may be his facial expression—the seen-it-all look of a behind-the-scenes NBA employee.

“If he could write a book, he’d have quite a bit to say,” said Mr. Kohl.

Watching others discover that Art was more scarecrow than he looked was always a source of enjoyment, Mr. Kohl added.

“The first day I walked in and said, ‘What’s up,’” said Bucks forward Khris Middleton. “He didn’t say anything.”

Mr. Middleton figured the security guard hadn’t heard him. “The second day,” he said, “same thing.” That was strange.

“Finally, the third or fourth day, I stopped,” the 6-foot-8 forward said, “and I realized he’d been in the same position.”

Art fooled some of the Bucks players while they were still in college. When prospects were in town for their pre-draft workouts and interviews, former Milwaukee general manager Ernie Grunfeld said he would mention how they should really talk to the security guard because “he has the best personality.”

Mr. Grunfeld, now the president of the Washington Wizards, got a call in 2014 from Mr. Feigin, who told him he was taking a job with the Bucks. Mr. Feigin said he’ll never forget Mr. Grunfeld’s reaction: “You can now promise me that Art will be safe for the rest of his life.”

The last few months have presented new challenges for Art and his team. The Bucks are expected to move into the Eastern Conference’s elite in the new season that began this week. Art has already made his move.

His office used to be at the Bucks’ practice center, a building hidden in Milwaukee’s suburbs. Art is now positioned behind glass doors at the team’s new downtown offices, across the street from the arena, where thousands of people can see him.

Team officials said they hoped the attention doesn’t distract Art from his job.

Mr. Sijan was nervous when he found out Art was moving. “I was thinking he’d be in the general public with the beer-sluggers,” he said. “He wouldn’t have a chance.”


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