Giannis Antetokounmpo: Why MVP didn’t want to waste year of his prime

Jan 4, 2021; Milwaukee, WI, USA (Nick Monroe/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports)
Jan 4, 2021; Milwaukee, WI, USA (Nick Monroe/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports) /

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo revealed in an ESPN interview that he signed his supermax extension as a way to not waste a year of his prime.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s decision to sign his supermax extension last month certainly dispelled any semblance of uncertainty this Milwaukee Bucks season.

Now as the Bucks stand at 5-3 two weeks into the 2020-21 season and winners of their last three games, Milwaukee has the ability to foster their new-look roster following a busy offseason. All while knowing the weight of the world had been lifted off their shoulders with Antetokounmpo having made his commitment to stay in Milwaukee for at least the next five seasons.

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In a recent sitdown with ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth, Antetokounmpo explained that he did not want to a waste a year of his prime with all of the pressure and speculation that would have come had he not signed his extension before the season:

"“First of all, I’ll be 100 percent honest with you. I didn’t want the pressure. Not me, personally, I can deal with pressure.I didn’t want the pressure on my teammates and my coaching staff. Going out there and losing a game and people talking about ‘Oh, he’s leaving. Oh, he’s staying. Oh, they didn’t play well. Oh, he’s out of there.’ Like, that’s adding more pressure to what we’re trying to accomplish here.The goal is to win a championship, so going through a year of pressure is almost throwing out a year while I’m entering my prime. So I’m not throwing out a year. Obviously, I know that everybody, and the media obviously and the NBA, wants that storyline and that drama. But that’s not me. I really want people to just leave me alone, don’t even talk about me and I just want to play basketball.”"

While Antetokounmpo had all of the financial incentive in the world to sign what currently stands as the richest contract in NBA history, his point of not wanting to waste a year of his prime is a very pertinent one. Even as all the speculation surrounding his future has long subsided.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s decision to sign his supermax extension rids the Milwaukee Bucks of the pressure that would have otherwise consumed their 2020-21 season.

All Bucks fans don’t have to go back all that long to remember the massive cycle of speculation that hovered over Antetokounmpo and his decision to sign his supermax extension before the start of this season.

The fact that all of the Bucks’ many moves this offseason were deservingly covered with Antetokounmpo in mind only speaks to how living and dying with each passing Bucks win or loss would have been handled this season, just as Antetokounmpo referred to in his answer.

The cold, financial basis behind Antetokounmpo’s decision obviously can’t be ignored here. By signing this contract, Antetokounmpo will have earned $335 million over his career once his contract ends in 2026 at 31 years old. That’s also not factoring in the money that he has made in his endorsement deals and having a best-selling signature shoe with Nike.

Antetokounmpo would have had the ability to wait a year and have the same contract come his way from the Bucks next offseason had he pushed forth with wanting to explore free agency.

But the human element that Antetokounmpo points to as a factor behind his decision is one that carries significant weight, especially for a two-time MVP who is seeking to fulfill his quest of winning an NBA title before his career is over.

In a modern NBA where player movement has never come at a greater pace, the effects it has on teams that have superstars standing in the middle of constant noise and speculation can be unruly. Antetokounmpo’s new teammate, Jrue Holiday, certainly knows that feeling first-hand after seeing how everything crumbled in New Orleans in light of Anthony Davis bringing his trade demand to light.

It’s the nature of the game and players are free to dictate the course of their career just as NBA teams are when it comes to building out a roster. Antetokounmpo elected not to take part in that carousel of speculation by sorting out his future and reaffirming his loyalty with the Bucks, much to the delight of the organization and the city of Milwaukee.

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The pressure of winning at the highest level hasn’t subsided in the slightest for the Bucks, but they at least have the time to grow into becoming the NBA champion they collectively aspire to be with Antetokounmpo’s decision set in stone.