MILWAUKEE — Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is all about winning, but he’s not a sucker. And that’s why, despite the Milwaukee Bucks trading for Damian Lillard late last month to improve the team’s chances of winning a championship, he won’t be signing an extension this year.
“It did not make sense to sign a contract right now,” Antetokounmpo said. “Money’s not important, a lot of f—— money’s important, so I’m going to sign it next year. But, no, at the end of the day it doesn’t make sense. It does not make sense for me to sign right now. I’ve always got to look towards what’s the best for me and my family and my situation.
At the end of the day, I want to be a Milwaukee Buck for the rest of my career as long as we are winning. It’s as simple as that. What do you expect me to say? The commitment from the team is there, but this year it did not make sense in any way. It doesn’t make sense for me to sign this year.”
Antetokounmpo is eligible to sign a three-year, $169 million extension this year, with the deadline for that deal coming on Oct. 23, the day before opening night. However, if he waits until 2024, he can sign a four-year, $233 million extension, which is obviously a massive difference. The concern for the Bucks is that his contract is up in 2025, and the longer he goes without an extension in place, the closer he is to unrestricted free agency.
The possibility of Antetokounmpo leaving the only franchise he has ever known was ratcheted up by comments he made earlier this summer regarding his future. Here, in part, is what he said on a podcast called “48 Minutes”:
“But at the end of the day, if the Milwaukee Bucks organization — which is the same thing I say every single year I’ve been with the Bucks — as long as we are in for a championship, as long as nobody’s comfortable, as long as everybody’s sacrificing the same amount of time and sweat and blood that I’ve sacrificed for this city to win a championship, we are all good. The moment I feel like people are complacent and they’re OK — because at the end of the day, this is the NBA, you are taken care of. You stay in a five-star hotel, you eat the best food, lobsters. You go and … drink wine. I don’t drink, but you know. You get in a charter, your plane. On the 15th and the 1st, you get your paycheck. Everybody is comfortable. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No way, no way. By being comfortable, I cannot reach my full potential. As you guys have seen, every year I try to get better. Better every year. Every year, that’s the approach I have for the game and that’s the approach I have for life. I don’t want to be comfortable. I want us to win another championship.
“So as I said, if the Milwaukee Bucks are on the same page for the rest of my career, great. If not, I have to win. I have to win. And I think the city and people will understand it. Because I’m one of the most competitive guys, and I’ve given everything that I can for the city of Milwaukee. I bleed green. I’m actually wearing the Milwaukee Bucks [shirt] on this interview. I’m actually wearing that and the shorts, and I’m actually about to go to bed. So I’m a Milwaukee Buck. But most importantly, I’m a winner. I want to win. And I have to do whatever it takes for me to win. And if there’s a better situation for me to win the Larry O’Brien, I have to take that better situation.”
He has made similar comments throughout his tenure in Milwaukee, but the extensive nature of the latest edition of them, combined with the Bucks’ first-round playoff loss last season and his looming free agency brought the issue to the forefront of the basketball world.
The team responded by trading for Lillard less than a month later, giving Antetokounmpo his most talented teammate yet. Naturally, the question everyone wanted answered at media day was whether the blockbuster deal showed him that the team was committed to winning.
“Having Dame here, definitely he adds levels to our team,” Antetokounmpo said. “Top 75, one of those guys who can score 60, 70 any given night, All-NBA, All-Star, MVP caliber player. But at the end of the day, Jrue [Holiday] was a big part of who we were and even with Jrue we had a chance to win. But I still understand now we have Dame on the team. Dame’s a great player. I’m looking forward to playing with him. He’s hungry, he wants to win his first championship, so I’m excited he’s on the team. Definitely, I feel like the team has shown a commitment to winning a championship.”
Heading into the season, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are on the same page. If all goes to plan, they will be for years to come.
“Hopefully, I can have an offer, I can have a good season, the team can have a good season and win a championship and everybody is happy and everybody is being taken care of next year,” Antetokounmpo said. “And hopefully the offer is there on the table and maybe I can take it.”