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Giannis Antetokounmpo's extension gives Milwaukee reason to celebrate

Milwaukee has secured its franchise cornerstone for the near future with Giannis Antetokounmpo's lucrative new deal.

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

The two-time Kia MVP announced on Tuesday he will sign a five-year contract extension with Milwaukee.

Until the Milwaukee Bucks and their fans can join Giannis Antetokounmpo in celebrating an NBA championship, what they got Tuesday is going to have to do: News that the back-to-back Kia NBA Most Valuable Player indeed had decided to stick with the team for the foreseeable future.

Antetokounmpo’s decision to ride with the organization and the city by signing a reported five-year, $228 million “super-max” contract extension answers one of the biggest basketball questions hanging over the NBA as it begins this uniquely challenging season.

For Antetokounmpo and his family, certainly, this is a wonderful step into the effervescent, versatile player’s prime. He has stability, he has assurances, he has a franchise that will continue to be nipped and tucked around him like a tailored suit, all in a place and with the company and fan base with whom he grew from teenaged lad to beloved icon.

The math of this contract matters in length and size. First, if he and the Bucks see it through, it will keep Antetokounmpo on board for 13 seasons. That’s more than double what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spent in Milwaukee, longer than Michael Jordan toiled in Chicago or LeBron James spent in two stints in Cleveland. That puts an athlete on a level where, never mind a statue outside the arena, he gets streets and babies named after him.

And he’ll be just 32 by that point, presumably with lots of NBA tread on his tires.

Clearly, it’s a financial boon for Giannis, his girlfriend Mariah and son Liam. Given that Antetokounmpo already will have earned, by the time the extension begins, approximately $108.6 million in basketball salary alone (counting his $27.5 million salary for 2020-21) it’s silly to refer to the additional $228 million as “generational wealth.” So let’s just say that Liam and any siblings probably won’t have to worry about their great-great grandkids.

There should be corks popping, too, in the background of any Zoom or FaceTime hookups involving Milwaukee’s coaches and players such as Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and the rest. This move brings validation and opportunity, enabling current and future teammates to make some of their career and life decisions knowing that Antetokounmpo in all likelihood will be around at least to 2025 (when there reportedly is an “opt out” window in his contract.)

Relive the best moments from Giannis Antetokounmpo last season.

Five full seasons from this point is an eternity by sports standards, by life’s standards in 2020, providing time and assurances from which real confidence can bloom. Granted, there is an imperative for them all to show they’re up to the task, that the teammates are capable, the coaching is savvy and the front office is more about the Jrue Holiday move than the Bogdan Bogdanovic mishap.

The cupboard is pretty bare, as far as draft picks, so it’s going to be on Giannis and his veteran friends to get the Bucks where they want to go. The record of previous “super-max” signees (Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, John Wall) is mixed so far. So there’s still a clock ticking. It just sounds less now like a drum pounding.

Today’s news also represents a pretty nice development for the NBA. For all the ways in which the league demonstrates time and again how smart and forward-thinking it is – pulling off the coronavirus “bubble” restart in Orlando, cultivating a true sense of partnership between players and employers in tackling tough issues – there is one problem neither side has solved: the drift of top talent to a handful of glamour markets.

Antetokounmpo heading to Los Angeles, New York, Miami or Golden State would have been a predictable outcome. An old-millennium storyline, frankly, we’ve seen play out over and over and over. There’s something fresh and optimistic about his re-upping with the Bucks, offering hope to teams and fans in the flyover markets.

Any ring that Antetokounmpo manages to win in Milwaukee will be worth exponentially more by building and working toward it there than if he were to relocate somewhere the trophy case is full. It’s something of a nod to the NFL’s ability to keep a sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback (and Bucks minority owner) like Aaron Rodgers in the hinterlands of Green Bay for his entire career. Now if only teams such as the Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Pacers and Pelicans can maintain the same sort of superstar hopes the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Saints enjoy.

If the absence of bad news counts as good, there is a whole ‘nother level of wonderfulness to Antetokounmpo’s decision. The alternative to his simple pen stroke was going to be dreary, triggering rampant speculation next week, with countless rumors weighing on the mood and skipping right over the 72 games and postseason of 2020-21.

Conjecture over players already under contract brings out some of the worst we see in fans and media, not to mention the players themselves. Anthony Davis got himself a ring with the Lakers, but will spend a lot longer living down his rude exit from New Orleans. James Harden appears to be headed down that same path.

Antetokounmpo was starting to get a little weary of the topic himself. In his first Zoom availability of the preseason last week, he tried and mostly failed to explain the delay in reaching his decision – the years and dollars weren’t going to change, after all. He wrapped up by suggesting the topic be off-limits in subsequent sessions. Fat chance.

Now? All arrows are trending in the right direction for the Bucks. Hungry teams in flashier markets can line up their next big quarry. The Greek Freak and his mates have winning to do.

Ol’ shot-and-a-beer Milwaukee got a little more glamorous – and peaceful and focused – with Tuesday’s news. Folks there are entitled to enjoy it.

One trophy down, one to go.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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