Bronson Koening wrapped up play with the Milwaukee Bucks’ summer league team last week, scoring six points and grabbing a rebound in the Bucks 69-65 loss to the Sacramento Kings. While adjusting to the NBA’s faster pace and more athletic players was difficult, Koenig was able to show flashes of the big-shot-making ability that Wisconsin fans took for granted over the past four years.
“It’s been a little bit of an adjustment,” Koenig said in an interview with Madison365. “It’s an adjustment for everyone playing against bigger, stronger, faster guys. But I’m just playing whatever role they want me to play.”
Koenig enters the NBA as the first player with a two-way contract, allowing him to contribute both to the Bucks and participate in the NBA’s newly minted G-League. The Bucks G-League affiliate will be the Wisconsin Herd, based in Oshkosh. Koenig is looking forward to the experience.
“My goal is to be on the roster and fully contribute to the team. I know I can help them win. I’m a quick learner, so I’ll just learn as much as I can,” he said.
Koenig also enters the league as one of the first players to give voice to his Native American heritage. Koenig, a member of the Ho Chunk nation, is paving the way for thousands of Native American children who need a star athlete they can look up to.
Koening, who went to the Standing Rock Reservation protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens to rip apart lands owned by the Sioux, says that entering the NBA gives him a new platform from which to discuss Native American issues.
“Native Americans are basically the minorities of the minorities,” Koenig said. “Everything that happened at Standing Rock just shows how people view us. All the treaties that have been broken. It’s sad how much history is repeating itself. Just the conditions people live on in the Reservations are horrible and no one really sees and no one really cares.”
As Koenig progresses in his NBA career he will have increasing opportunity to become the face of a forgotten people.
Over the course of the past several years multiple athletes with Wisconsin roots ranging from Colin Kaepernick to Nigel Hayes, have given voice to different minority plights at several levels. Each faced serious backlash and, in the case of Kaepernick, trepidation from NFL teams as to whether they’d want him on the team.
But Koenig feels like the Milwaukee Bucks will be supportive of his mission.
“One hundred percent they’ll give me my voice,” Koenig said. “They really like what I do and what I say. I feel like I have their full support for sure.”
There will be plenty of opportunity for Koenig to speak out. The battle for Standing Rock continues even after a federal judge ordered that the Tribe was not given adequate notice or recourse in the matter of the Pipeline being built. However, that ruling does not permanently stop the building of the Pipeline and the court will be conducting further proceedings.
In the meantime, Koenig joins a Bucks organization brimming with confidence and boasting many of the best young players in the NBA following a season in which they made the playoffs but bowed out in the first round.
“They got a great young core group of guys,” Koenig said. “I can only see us getting better. We’re only going up from here.”