When Ford arrived in Milwaukee last June, he told Baker, 25, and Robinson, 23, basically the same thing the woman in the youth center said: It's up to you. To emphasize that point, one of Ford's first acts was to appoint them co-captains. That was appropriate because Baker and Robinson constantly strive to keep everything about their relationship equal. Robinson will admit that he's the better video-game player but is quick to add that Baker is dominant at the pool table. Baker acknowledges that he has the better singing voice but only after pointing out that Robinson is the superior rapper. The same principle applies on the court. "If we've gone to Glenn three or four times in a row on offense, he'll make sure to tell me to go down on the blocks because the ball is coming to me," Baker says. "We'll call his favorite inbounds play, but he'll say, 'No, let's run yours.' We try to make sure that everything stays in balance, because then it's harder to stop either one of us. One of the reasons we've been so successful this year is that we have an even better understanding than in the past that we're both at our best when we're sharing the load."
The one thing they haven't been able to share is the love of the Milwaukee fans. Affection has been showered on Baker almost from the time he arrived from the University of Hartford as the little-known eighth pick of the 1993 draft, but plaudits have not been given so freely to Robinson, who was the college Player of the Year as a Purdue junior and then left school to become the first player taken in the '94 lottery. Baker quickly proved to be a draft-day steal, and he also won fans with his engaging personality. "If you met them both for five minutes, you'd probably come away with more of a liking for Vin," says Milwaukee forward Armon Gilliam. "Glenn takes a little bit longer to get to know, because he keeps things inside a little more."
Baker, the son of a minister, is unfailingly cheerful and so polite that he even thanks reporters for interviewing him. "He's humble, honest, caring, hardworking, and he has a deep faith in God," says Milwaukee center Andrew Lang. "How can you not like him? He's not just a good guy, he's one of the great people in this league."
Vin grew up singing in the choir at the Full Tabernacle Church in Old Saybrook, Conn., where his father, James, is pastor, and his full, rich baritone can sometimes be heard on the Bucks' buses and planes. Baker can be vocal in other ways as well. "Everybody thinks because V is a minister's son that he's a nice boy," says Robinson. "He is nice, but he's got a mean streak in him, too." That has been most apparent under the boards, where Baker has used his wingspan and increasing bulk (he has gained 20 pounds, to 244, since his rookie year) to become one of the better rebounding power forwards in the league, and in the locker room, where he unleashed a few tirades against the poor performances of his teammates last season. "Vin is a little high-strung," says Ford, "and if something's bothering him you know it right away; you can see it in his face. With Glenn, his expression gives nothing away. You have to ask him, maybe several times, before you find out that something's wrong."
Nearly everything went wrong during Robinson's first season, beginning with his contract negotiations, which opened with Robinson's agent, Charles Tucker, asking for a then unprecedented $100 million deal. Robinson and the Bucks eventually agreed on a 10-year, $68.15 million pact—but not until after he had missed all of training camp plus the first regular-season game, in the process becoming the latest example of the greedy athlete. No one needs to tell Robinson that everybody needs love.
"People saw that $100 million figure and decided right away that I was this money-hungry rookie," Robinson says. "That was just a number to start negotiations with. I never thought I deserved $100 million before I had played one game in the pros, but nobody seemed to understand that." Certainly no one who saw Robinson delivering food baskets to three community centers one evening last week would have considered him a selfish athlete.
Even though Robinson averaged 21.9 and 20.2 points his first two seasons, he was a disappointment. His shot selection was questionable, he led the league in turnovers his first year (3.9 per game) and his defense was so poor that then-coach Mike Dunleavy, now the Bucks' general manager, was forced to pull him late in games. Robinson's nickname, Big Dog, began to take on a whole new meaning.
It didn't help that Robinson continually sulked about his bad press, which led only to more criticism from the media. During his first season he skipped a news conference before the rookie all-star game, and he made no secret of his displeasure when Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks and Grant Hill of the Detroit Pistons, the players drafted immediately after him, were co-winners of the Rookie of the Year award. Hill's golden reputation, in particular, seems to gnaw at Robinson: They play the same position, and Hill has gotten the recognition and endorsements that Robinson hasn't.
Baker kept the last two seasons from being even worse for the beleaguered Robinson. When Robinson felt slighted at not being chosen for the All-Star team his rookie year and considered not playing in the rookie game, it was Baker who encouraged him to make the trip to Phoenix for All-Star weekend. "And when I was sitting on the bench at the start of that game, Glenn was sitting right behind me, telling me I better go out and show them what I can do," Baker says. "In any kind of important situation each of us knows he can depend on the other for support."
But no one—except himself—could help Robinson improve his game, and he set about doing that last summer. Though he had been selected for Dream Team III, Robinson withdrew from the U.S. Olympic squad, citing Achilles tendinitis. Now he admits that his ailment was only one of the reasons he didn't play. "I just felt that I wasn't really going to be able to work on my game the way I needed to if I played in the Olympics," he says. "I'm not a pure shooter. I'm not a natural ball handler. I'm not a great rebounder. It's not like everything comes easily to me. I have to work."