Giannis Antetokounmpo is under contract with the Milwaukee Bucks for at least two more seasons, but will soon be eligible to sign a three-year, $173 million extension that could tie him to Milwaukee for at least the next five years.
It apparently won’t be that simple.
The two-time NBA MVP discussed his contract status with Tania Ganguli of The New York Times, outright stating he doesn’t plan to sign an extension when eligible in a few weeks and indicating there are still some things he wants to see before agreeing to a deal next summer:
“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.”
He added: “I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing.”
Antetokounmpo, who is recovering from minor knee surgery, signed a five-year, $228.2 million supermax contract in 2020 that set him up to play out his prime in his adopted city. So far, he has delivered on that money, winning his first championship in 2021 while maintaining the production and defense that won him back-to-back MVPs in 2019 and 2020, but the Bucks have had their stumbles.
The 2021-22 Bucks defended their title by going 51-31 and losing the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Boston Celtics despite a historic performance from Antetokounmpo. They were even better in the next regular season, going 58-34, and then fell even more flat with a first-round exit against the Miami Heat.
Milwaukee responded by firing head coach Mike Budenholzer two years after winning a title and replacing him with Toronto Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin. Antetokounmpo was reportedly involved in the hiring process, meeting with Griffin during the interview process and endorsing him, but he still told the Times that the coaching change is part of why he’s unsure if he’ll sign an extension:
“You’ve got to see the dynamics,” he said. “How the coach is going to be, how we’re going to be together. At the end of the day, I feel like all my teammates know and the organization knows that I want to win a championship. As long as we’re on the same page with that and you show me and we go together to win a championship, I’m all for it. The moment I feel like, oh, yeah, we’re trying to rebuild —”
The past few years in the NBA might make one cynical when a superstar signals some unhappiness or apprehension about committing to a team, but Antetkounmpo emphasized his love for the Bucks … while emphasizing winning is his priority:
“There will never be hard feelings with the Milwaukee Bucks,” he said. “I believe that we’ve had 10 unbelievable years, and there’s no doubt I gave everything for the city of Milwaukee. Everything. Every single night, even when I’m hurt. I am a Milwaukee Buck. I bleed green. I know this.
“This is my team, and it’s going to forever be my team. I don’t forget people that were there for me and allowed me to be great and to showcase who I am to the world and gave me the platform. But we have to win another one.”
“But at the end of the day, being a winner, it’s over that goal,” he said. “Winning a championship comes first. I don’t want to be 20 years on the same team and don’t win another championship.”
Clearly, this is going to be a very important season for the Bucks if they want their next half-decade to resemble their last half-decade.