Giannis Antetokounmpo says another ring matters more than massive contract

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Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo

This September, the Milwaukee Bucks can and will offer Giannis Antetokounmpo a contract extension that is the same per year as the largest deal in league history that Jaylen Brown just got from the Celtics, except the Bucks’ offer has to be one year shorter (four years instead of five). Antetokounmpo would be a fool to sign it and he knows it.

That’s because the Bucks can offer a full five-year extension next summer that would be the new largest deal in league history, one that could be worth up to an estimated $334 million over five years (with that fifth year worth an estimated $76 million).

Even that may not be enough for Antetokounmpo — he wants more than money. As he has done before, Antetokounmpo fired a shot across the bow of the Milwaukee Bucks (and its new co-owner) this week, telling Tania Ganguli of the New York Times that another title matters more to him than a massive payday.

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“The real question’s not going to be this year — numbers-wise it doesn’t make sense,” Antetokounmpo said. “But next year, next summer it would make more sense for both parties. Even then, I don’t know.”

The Bucks spent this summer getting the band back together that won a league-best 58 games last season (and who knows what their playoff run might have looked like if Antetokounmpo had not been injured against the Heat). Milwaukee re-signed Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton this offseason and has a possible extension with Jrue Holiday coming up. The Bucks enter next season as clear title contenders.

However, change is coming and that’s what Antetokounmpo sees. This Bucks’ roster is getting old fast (Lopez is 35, Middleton is 32 and was injured much of last season, and Jrue Holiday is 33), and the organization will have to pivot in a couple of years and retool around Antetokounmpo in his prime (28).

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The Greek Freak wants to know what that pivot looks like. It doesn’t mean Antetokounmpo is itching to get out of Milwaukee, but he has said before he wants to be challenged and win another title, and if he can’t do that with the Bucks he will do it somewhere else. He is on a team that hasn’t been back to the Eastern Conference Finals for a couple of seasons and was bounced last April in the first round by the Heat. Antetokounmpo wants to win now and win later.

Much like before he re-signed in Milwaukee in 2020, other teams are watching and waiting (the Knicks, Heat, Mavericks and Lakers in particular). If Antetokounmpo doesn’t re-sign next summer, half the league will start calling the Bucks and trying to talk trade (and the Bucks will be looking to find a way to keep Antetokounmpo happy and in Wisconsin, the only home Antetokounmpo has ever known in America and a place of stability for him and his family).

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What Antetokounmpo did with this interview was send a message to the Bucks — a shot across the bow. Once again we should admire Antetokounmpo’s honesty — he could have done what seemingly every superstar does and say, “I want to be a Buck the rest of my life,” and not mean a word of it. Instead, he was honest and said winning and being challenged matters most to him, not getting the largest paycheck possible. Of course, Antetokounmpo would really like both the money and winning, but it’s on the Bucks to provide that.

He wanted the Bucks to know the clock is ticking.

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