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Antetokounmpo Believes Signing Extension Now Should Help the Bucks Avoid Distractions

October 25, 2023

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo wanted to make sure his contract status didn’t distract the Milwaukee Bucks as they made a run at another championship.

That’s one reason the two-time MVP changed his mind and signed a three-year, $186 million extension rather than waiting until next summer to make his future plans known.

Antetokounmpo, 28, explained his decision Tuesday, one day after announcing on social media he had agreed to the extension.

“I don’t need the media talks to be about my contract and if I’m going to stay, if I’m going to leave,” Antetokounmpo said. “Because I knew in my heart that I wanted to stay. I don’t want people, when we lose a game to come back and say, ‘Oh, Giannis is being irritated, he doesn’t like what’s going on, this, that, he’s going to leave, blah, blah, blah.’ No. The conversation right now is going to be straight basketball.”

Antetokounmpo noted he made a similar decision back in 2020, when he signed his supermax extension about a week before the start of the season rather than pursuing free agency the following summer. The Bucks went on to win their first title in a half-century.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives to the basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) defends in the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sarah Phipps)

“It was very helpful,” Antetokounmpo recalled. “I didn’t have to think about it. And I don’t think it’s just helpful to me, it’s helpful to the team too. They don’t want to hear about, ‘Oh, Giannis is leaving. Giannis is staying’ the whole year.”

Antetokounmpo said he feels a responsibility to put the organization at ease.

“I want to be here, right?” Antetokounmpo said. “There’s no secret in that. Everybody knows that. It feels good. Like I stress a lot of people out. And I don’t want to be the reason that a lot of people are stressed out because my life is really stressed out and I know how I feel. So, if I can make it easier on the organization and my teammates and put us in a better position to win a championship, heck yeah. Let’s do it.”

Antetokounmpo’s announcement on the eve of the NBA’s season opener capped an eventful few months for the Bucks and their superstar.

The Bucks posted the NBA’s best regular-season record last year but lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs, a result that led to the firing of coach Mike Budenholzer and the hiring of Adrian Griffin. Antetokounmpo then said this summer he wouldn’t sign an extension this year and wanted to see how committed the Bucks were about competing for another championship.

Milwaukee then acquired seven-time all-NBA guard Damian Lillard — like Antetokounmpo a member of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team — from the Portland Trail Blazers. Even after that move, Antetokounmpo said he would wait until the summer before signing an extension because it didn’t make financial sense to do it now.

“He’s the best player in the world,” Griffin said Tuesday. “Having him commit for a few more years is just amazing.”

Antetokounmpo is now under contract for at least four more years — and a fifth if he’s so inclined. He will earn about $94.4 million over the next two seasons, then about $120 million more from 2025-27.

If he exercises his option for the final year, he could make roughly $66 million in 2027-28.

Had he waited until next year to sign the extension, it could have been a four-year agreement at a figure exceeding $250 million. Antetokounmpo signed the extension and then gave the pen to his mother, who owns the pens from all the contracts he has signed since joining the NBA.

“I hope I can add more pens to her collection moving forward,” Antetokounmpo said.

Antetokounmpo said he realized he could benefit financially by signing now and then again in 2026 when he’s eligible for another extension. Antetokounmpo said he also followed some advice from his older brother, Bucks teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

“Obviously I trust Thanasis to death,” Antetokounmpo said. “Me and Thanasis, we haven’t separated ourselves since I was born. We were always there. He always looks out for me and has my back in so many ways. I have his back in so many ways. It’s a judgment that I trust blindly.”

This decision means the Bucks could keep their top four players — Antetokounmpo, Lillard, three-time All-Star Khris Middleton and 7-footer Brook Lopez — together for years to come.

Lillard’s contract runs through 2025-26 with a player option for 2026-27. Lopez signed a two-year deal and Middleton signed a three-year deal with a player option on the third year this summer rather than leaving via free agency.

“It just allows me to go back home, and when I wake up, I wake up excited to go to work because I know we have a chance, and that’s all you can ask for,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s not a guarantee. But I know having good players on your team, you have a chance to win a championship.”

Antetokounmpo has spent his entire career with the Bucks, who selected him out of Greece with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He won consecutive MVP awards in 2019 and 2020 and led the 2020-21 Bucks to the franchise’s first championship in a half-century, scoring 50 points in the title-clinching victory.

He is Milwaukee’s career leader in points, assists, blocks, triple-doubles and games played.

“I’m extremely happy,” Antetokounmpo said. “I know the ins and outs of the city. The city shows me a lot of love, and also whenever I go out there and have time with my family, they also give me space, which is crazy to me. When they see me on the street, (they) give me space. They respect who I am as a person and what I’ve done for the city of Milwaukee. And for that, I can’t turn my back. Not now, not in the future, not never.

“And I want to be committed, I want to give back to the city of Milwaukee. We won one championship, but I believe we can win a second.”

 

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