Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t want to leave Milwaukee.
But perhaps more importantly, he said Tuesday after signing a three-year, $186 million extension, he didn’t want to have that narrative hanging over his every move throughout the season.
“I knew in my heart I wanted to stay,” Antetokounmpo said, via ESPN. “I don’t want people when we lose a game to come back and say, ‘Oh, Giannis is being irritated, he doesn’t like what’s going on, this, that, he’s going to leave, blah, blah, blah.’
“No. The conversation right now is going to be straight basketball.”
For Antetokounmpo and for Bucks fans everywhere, that's going to make this season much easier.
Antetokounmpo’s new deal will keep him in Milwaukee at least through the 2027-28 campaign, and it ends the threat of him being a free agent in 2025. The extension was a bit of a surprise, considering that Antetokounmpo said earlier this offseason that he wasn’t willing to sign an extension until everyone in the organization was on the same page.
After he said that, however, the Bucks made moves to prove they were serious about winning a championship. They traded for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, which brought another superstar in to play alongside Antetokounmpo under new coach Adrian Griffin. They also locked down Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez with new deals.
"I want to be here, right? There's no secret in that. Everybody knows that," Antetokounmpo said, via ESPN. "I stress a lot of people out. And I don't want to be the reason that a lot of people are stressed out because my life is really stressed out, and I know how I feel. So, if I can make it easier on the organization and my teammates and put us in a better position to win a championship, heck yeah. Let's do it."
Antetokounmpo, a two-time MVP, averaged a career-high 31.1 points and 11.8 rebounds per game last season, his 10th in the league. The Bucks, however, were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round — which marked their second straight early exit after their title run in 2021. That led to the firing of Mike Budenholzer and the eventual hiring of Griffin.
Now that that’s behind them and Antetokounmpo is committed, Milwaukee can focus on its season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.
"Giannis is not a distraction. He's the best player in the world, and I never looked at it as that," Griffin said, via ESPN. "It's a part of the business, but we're fortunate, very fortunate that he decided to sign that extension.
"He signed his extension yesterday, and then he was the last person to leave today in the gym. It just tells you how special he is."