Giannis Antetokounmpo earned recognition as the 2019-20 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo said he appreciated the love the city of Milwaukee has shown him ever since his arrival as an 18-year-old rookie from Greece.
So the reigning two-time MVP decided to show his loyalty to the place where he’s spent his entire NBA career.
“It’s the place I want to be,” Antetokounmpo said Wednesday, one day after signing a supermax extension with the Bucks. “It’s the place I want to raise my kids. I feel good here. My family feels good here, so I’m good.”
Antetokounmpo could have become a free agent at the end of the upcoming season if he hadn’t agreed to the deal, reportedly a five-year extension worth $228 million. Plenty of NBA teams were arranging their financial plans with the hope the 6-foot-11 “Greek Freak” would become available.
He instead stuck around and said it was important to him that his loyalty be considered part of his legacy.
“I’m a man of my word,” Antetokounmpo said. “This is big. This is big. Being on a team that trusted me, believed in me, took care of me, took care of my family. I always want to give back and I’ve been trying to give back since day one, since I’ve been here. I’ve got more to give.”
Family means plenty to Antetokounmpo, who became a father earlier this year and has one brother (Thanasis) on the Bucks and another (Kostas) on the Los Angeles Lakers.
As he discussed what this contract extension means to him, he referenced his own father, Charles Antetokounmpo, who died of a heart attack in September 2017.
“I know he’s dancing right now,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s extremely happy for what we’ve accomplished and he’s extremely proud of us and who we are as human beings.”
Antetokounmpo is hoping to give the Bucks their first NBA title since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led them to the 1971 championship. The Bucks have posted the NBA’s best regular-season record each of the last two years but lost to Miami in a second-round series last season after falling to Toronto in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals.
Antetokounmpo says he believes he can win a title in Milwaukee and noted that the Bucks have a “great culture.” But he also notes that building a championship team is a step-by-step process.
“It’s tough because at the end of the day, nowhere you go, nowhere you are is a guarantee to win a championship,” Antetokounmpo said. “But I know who I am and I know that I’m a man of my words. It might take me 10 years, I might never win a championship or I might win five. Whatever the case may be, I know who I am, I know what I believe and I know that I stuck with the people who believed in me.”
He kept some of them guessing all the way to the end.
Antetokounmpo, 26, said he didn’t let any teammates know his decision before announcing it on social media because he didn’t want the news to leak. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said he found out while pulling out of a parking garage when he saw that his sons had texted him the tweet with Antetokounmpo’s announcement.
“Players like Giannis are very, very rare and very, very unique,” Budenholzer said. “This commitment from him just means the world to all of us. He believes in the city, he believes in the organization and he believes in his teammates. You just feel like you have a chance to do something special because of his specialness.”
Antetokounmpo already has done more for the Bucks then they ever could have imagined when they selected him with the 15th pick in the 2013 draft. The two-time MVP and reigning NBA defensive player of the year believes there’s still more to do.
“Being able to give back to this city and this organization means a lot,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’ll be ecstatic if we could be able to bring a championship to Milwaukee. I’ll be probably the happiest person ever.”