The Bucks and Celtics will play on a throwback replica court — and Kyrie Irving is concerned

The MECCA replica court
The MECCA replica court at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. –Gary Dineen / Milwaukee Bucks

Throwback jerseys are one thing, but a throwback court is taking it to another level.

The Milwaukee Bucks are breaking out a replica of the “court that made Milwaukee famous” for one night only Thursday against the Celtics at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, formerly known as the MECCA. The Bucks, who currently play at the Bradley Center, called the MECCA home from 1968 to 1988.

In celebration of their 50th-anniversary season, the Bucks commissioned a replica of the uniquely colorful court the team played on from 1978 to 1998 for Thursday’s “Return to the MECCA” game. The original floor — painted (in some secrecy) by famous pop artist Robert Indiana — was also featured in a recent ESPN 30-for-30 short.

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Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who played at the MECCA during his college days at Marquette University, called the painted court provided “a true home-court advantage.”

“It was amazing how many times we got opposing players to step out of bounds or to stand in the three-second lane,” Rivers said. “I mean, that court did that to you.”

The former Celtics coach said it wasn’t until later that he learned “that it was an art piece.”

“I didn’t know that. I thought I was playing on a confusing floor,” he said.

Prior to the game, the visiting Celtics players appeared more bemused than confused by the surface — including Al Horford, whose dad, Tito, was drafted by the Bucks in 1988 and played in Milwaukee for two seasons.

However, Kyrie Irving expressed concerns about the effects on his knees of playing on a different court.

“I’m all about safety,” Irving told reporters during the team’s shootaround Thursday morning.

“We’ll see how it is on my knees, see how it is on everyone’s bodies,” he said. “I know that this is a pretty older court. It looks like it’s freshly painted as well. I’m just going to do my assessment and go from there.”

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According to the Bucks, Thursday’s replica court is not in fact an “older court,” but was recently made with the same wood and paint to match the original. The team even appeared to respond to Irving’s concerns with a subtweet Thursday afternoon.

But even when he was informed during shootaround that it was a new floor, Irving remained skeptical.

“Yeah, it took me three steps to realize that this is not the same NBA court that I’m used to playing on,” he said.

Bucks players were a bit more upbeat about the floor, after practicing on it Wednesday.

“It takes a little bit of time to get used to because it’s kind of bright,” Giannis Antetokounmpo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s why we practiced today here so we can get used to it, but I love it.”