MILWAUKEE — Always quick with the jokes, Giannis Antetokounmpo opened his media session on Wednesday by suggesting that Bucks fans should be thanking his mother for the fact that he signed a five-year, $228 million supermax extension with Milwaukee earlier this week.
“I was happy, it was the right thing to do, Giannis said. “Discussed with my agent, the team, my family. Talked to my mother, asked my mother ‘do you want to move?’ She said, ‘no,’ I said ‘cool, I’m gonna sign the deal then.'”
In reality, it wasn’t quite that simple. While the rest of the world watched and waited, searching desperately for any sign that might point definitively towards the decision he would make about his future, Giannis was laying low overseas, where he was training and watching his brother play professionally.
Following the Bucks’ disappointing exit in the second round of the playoffs last season, Giannis expressed a desire to win in Milwaukee, telling Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, “Some see a wall and go in [another direction]. I plow through it.” But with that came the expectation that the front office would approach chasing a championship the same way.
And in the span of a few hours last month, it seemed the Bucks’ front office had not only done just that, but done it in spectacular fashion. First, a blockbuster trade with the Pelicans for Jrue Holiday, and then another with the Kings for Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was one of Giannis’ key targets, according to multiple reports. Only, the Bogdanovic deal fell apart, and the Bucks had to pivot to adding a number of veteran role players in free agency to fill out the roster.
Overall it was a step forward, but was it a big enough one to convince the reigning back-to-back MVP to extend his contract? When he arrived back in the United States ahead of training camp and didn’t immediately sign, it was easy to think the answer was no. Even head coach Mike Budenholzer admitted on Wednesday to feeling nervous about the process.
But eventually the official announcement arrived that Giannis was, after all, staying in Milwaukee. The obvious question, then, was why? What convinced him that Milwaukee was the place to be, and that he could win a title with the Bucks? And how much did the offseason acquisitions affect his thought process?
In regards to the latter, not really all that much. Giannis admitted that while he wanted the front office to make some changes, he was “always leaning to this direction.”
“I just wanted the team to be improved and be better,” Giannis said. “And the team is better because we have great players. Great to compete, great for the culture, great human beings. But I wanted to be here, I wanted to be here. I knew I wanted to be here, and I’m here.”
The efforts from the front office helped, of course, and Holiday in particular will make the Bucks a much more formidable playoff force. But over the 25 minutes that he spoke to the media, it became clear that Giannis signing a long-term extension was as much about his overall comfort with the city and the organization as it was about any one specific move.
“The way that this city has supported me and my family has been amazing from day one,” Giannis said. “I was 18, I’m 26 right now. All I know is Milwaukee. When I came here I fell in love with the city, it’s a city that loves basketball. It’s a place that I want to be, it’s a place that I want to raise my kids. I feel good here. My family feels good here. I’m good.”
And if Giannis is good, so are the Bucks, and so is Milwaukee.