Having come to terms on an extension with the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo made his new contract official with a press conference on Tuesday.
For the few who might have had concerns over whether the humble, somewhat naive Giannis Antetokounmpo that Milwaukee Bucks fans have come to know and love would be changed thanks to a new $100 million contract, they surely dissipated with the Greek’s first words at a specially arranged press conference on Tuesday.
Speaking alongside Bucks general manager John Hammond and head coach Jason Kidd from the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center’s Preview Center, Antetokounmpo opened the press conference just like he could have done on the day he was drafted.
Testing the microphone, the Greek Freak acknowledged that in spite of his new status, he’s still not immune to nerves in that kind of setting.
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"“First of all, I’m not going to lie. I’m nervous but I think I’m going to do a good job of this.”"
Sporting a wide grin throughout most of the press conference, Antetokounmpo reflected on the road that has taken him to this point. In thanking Hammond, the Greek Freak said:
"“Man, it’s been a long journey. You came to Greece, you believed in me, you seen me playing basketball with my family when I was 18 years old and a raw talent. You know, a lot of people wouldn’t have given me the opportunity, so I want to thank you for giving me that opportunity. I’m really blessed to be sitting at this table with you.”"
Asked if he saw a day such as this in his future when he first arrived in Milwaukee, the 21-year-old was reflective.
"“You always believe it could happen, but you’re not sure. I know that I put in a lot of days of work and came back to the gym and practiced hard so that this day could be possible some day. By doing that, I made it. We made it possible as a team.”"
One of the major talking points among major media outlets since news of the deal broke has been the rags to riches nature of Antetokounmpo’s story, and how from poverty in Athens and working to sell sunglasses to help put food on the table for his family, he has now become a $100 million man.
When pressed on whether this would change who he was as a person or change life for his family, Giannis offered a thoughtful response.
"“I think this is just security for my family. Just knowing that my family is going to be good, that my little brothers are going to be good. But I don’t think it’s going to change us as a family because from where we started to where we are right now, it’s great. I don’t think it’s going to change us a lot as a family.”"
Knuckling down into the minutiae of the deal, Hammond revealed that discussions with Giannis’ agents had been ongoing since July and that they had been amicable throughout. The Bucks GM also didn’t shirk acknowledging what this new deal says about the status of Giannis within the team’s larger plans.
"“We looked at it this way. If we consider Giannis a cornerstone type player, and we do consider him to be one of those kind of players, the unwritten rule in that is that if that’s the case you try to sign the player as quickly as you can for as long as you can.”"
With the possibility of a fifth year on the contract, if it was a max contract, not ultimately coming into play, Hammond and Antetokounmpo both shared some of their thoughts on the reasoning why the contract was ultimately structured as it was. Hammond observed:
"“There was a max number out there, and that was discussed internally and externally. The one thing we asked Giannis to do was take that into consideration as we move forward to give us every opportunity to become a championship level team. There’s going to be guys, and guys that have done that and players who have given back some, and as we move forward hopefully within the organization we’ll have other guys who are willing to do that and those small pieces can turn into a bigger chunk at some point.”"
For the player himself, that unselfishness in leaving money on the table also plays into the idea of Giannis looking to be a leader on this team. In his own words, he explained:
"“This is a big step for me, I’ve got to show on the court and off the court that I’m a leader.”"
With a lucrative new contract, often comes new levels of expectation and pressure. Coach Kidd explained that he has little concern about that becoming a factor with Giannis.
"“I think for Giannis, there’s no pressure he just has to be himself. He’s put in a lot of time in the summer, getting better at his game, and he’s excited about this challenge. One of the things that he’s always said has been consistent, you know, it’s not about the money, it’s about winning. That’s what he wants to be measured by and that’s what makes him a special player.”"
When asked if he was going to treat himself or his family to any new purchases, Giannis stayed true to his roots, breaking out one of his greatest crowd pleasers.
"“Let me think about that, maybe after this we’ll just go and get some smoothies or something. We’ll see.”"
Three years later and Giannis is still the same young man who took great joy in tasting his first smoothie, and now, to the joy of Bucks fans everywhere, when his current deal expires next summer there’ll be an opportunity to continue watching him flourish as a Buck for at least four more years to come.