The two-time MVP reiterated that his future in Milwaukee is very much conditional, with a stipulation that will be hard to maintain for a franchise built around aging veterans.
“As long as we play and I approach the game every single day the right way, and we all sacrifice for a common goal, I could see myself being with the MIlwaukee Bucks for the rest of my career,” Antetokounmpo said on the ‘48 Minutes’ podcast from the Bleav network. “But the moment I feel like people aren’t as committed as I am to get that golden thing (the trophy) in the back, I am not. It’s more than the money, it’s more than the lobsters, it’s more than the chartered flights. For me, it’s all about that [championship]. And I want that. If the Milwaukee Bucks are on the same page for the rest of my career, great. If not, I have to win. I think the people of the city understand it.”
Antetokounmpo previously announced he wouldn’t agree to an extension before next season, which makes sense monetarily because he could make more money waiting until the 2024 summer. However, Antetokounmpo has also been clear he’d sever ties with the Bucks if they’re not close to another title.
And it’s getting dicey for them. After winning the championship on Antetokounmpo’s shoulders in 2021, they failed to advance past the second round the last two years and were most recently stunned by the Heat in the opening round. Other than Antetokounmpo (who is 28), each member of the team’s core (Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday) is at least 32.
Antetokounmpo seems concerned about complacency and legacy.
“I’m a winner. At the end of the day, I am a winner. I want to be a winner,” he said. “Contracts. Fame status. Comfort zone. Does not matter to me. What matters at the end of the day is [championships]. I don’t want to get stuck talking about the same story. Oh, we went to Game 6 in the 2021 NBA Finals, we were down 2-0, we came back and won four games. I’m tired of hearing the same story over and over again.
“It was unbelievable. I know everybody was excited. I know we hadn’t won a championship in 50 years. But at the end of the day, I want to create new memories. I want to win another championship.”
Antetokounmpo, who skipped the FIBA World Cup after undergoing minor knee surgery in July, noted that he can’t be compared to Hakeem Olajuwon because he has fewer titles.
“He has two championships. The moment I win a second championship, then maybe I can be compared to Hakeem,” Antetokounmpo said. “He has two, I have one.”
What does this mean for the rest of the NBA? Not much yet. Barring a disastrous collapse, it’s hard to see Milwaukee trading the best player in franchise history when he can’t hit free agency until 2025.
The Bucks, although aging, still represent one the East’s top contenders alongside Boston and Miami. It’s also hard to question the franchise’s commitment to winning. According to Sportrac, the Bucks have the third-highest payroll and will owe almost $50 million in luxury taxes. They fired coach Mike Budenholzer in the offseason and hired Adrian Griffin, a longtime assistant with the Bulls, Magic, Thunder and Raptors.