Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo purchases minority ownership stake in Brewers

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When the Milwaukee Brewers’ ownership group organized by Mark Attanasio 17 years ago finally chose to add a new investor, it went big.

Really big. As in 6-foot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Milwaukee Bucks superstar, still riding the euphoria of that franchise’s first NBA championship in 50 years, decided to branch out to a new sport Friday by becoming the 17th member of the Brewers’ ownership group.

"This is unbelievable," Antetokounmpo said at an afternoon media session with principal owner Attanasio at American Family Field. "This is a dream come true. For a kid from (the neighborhood of) Sepolia (in) Athens, Greece, born of immigrant parents, I could never imagine I would be in this position.

"Thank God that He allowed me and blessed me to be in this position because without Him, I wouldn’t be here. At the same time, I thank Mark for giving me the opportunity to join their ownership group, to learn from (him).

"This is an amazing organization. I’m very, very happy to be a part of it."

Antetokounmpo then drew laughter from the gathered crowd, including brother Thanasis, when he revealed a piece of advice that Attanasio gave him earlier.

"He told me outside, 'Don’t be that trouble investor because every ownership group has one,' " he said. "I’ll try not to be one. I’m here to learn; I’m here to observe. Growing up in Greece, I always wanted to be a basketball player. Always. I worked extremely hard to accomplish that.

"Sometimes, when you’re on the road, you’ve got to think about what’s next. I know I’m young. I always focused 100% on basketball, getting better and helping my team win the championship. But I wanted to be an owner of a professional team. My (representatives) reached out to (Attanasio) a year ago. I think I was in the bubble (in Orlando for the playoffs). I was in quarantine and I was like, 'I want to be involved in the community.'

"There’s no better way to start than with the Milwaukee Brewers. We want to win a championship here. It’s going to take time and patience, but we have a great ownership group, we have great players and we’re going to accomplish it with a lot of hard work.

"Actually, for my age (26), I think I’m pretty sharp and I think a lot of it helped put me in position where I can think about things, think about the future and where I want to be in the future and what I want to do. I was just thinking about that, wanting to become an owner of a professional team. There was a lot of ideas on the table.

"There was an idea to own a soccer team in Europe, and I said, 'No, I want to be a part of the Milwaukee Brewers if that’s possible.' At first they told me that they haven’t allowed anybody for 17 years to be in that ownership group, and I was like, 'Does it really matter? Can we still reach out to them and see what they think, if they’d be interested in me joining them and me learning from them?' So, I think both sides, we talked about it."

Antetokounmpo revealed he knew very little about baseball but was eager to learn as much as possible, as soon as possible.

"I don’t know much about baseball," he said. "I’ve been to two Milwaukee Brewers games. I enjoy it, I enjoy the competition. Obviously, growing up in Europe, there’s not a lot of baseball over there. When I was introduced to baseball, I was 18. It was the first day I came to Milwaukee.

"Right now, I just want to learn. This is my first time doing this. Always, even when I started playing basketball, I wanted to learn. I wanted to be the best in what I do.

"I think I’ve talked with Mark a little bit on the phone and I’ve text messaged and I met him today and I think he’s a great guy. I believe when I reach out and ask questions, he’ll give me the answer. He’ll help me out to be a better owner."

Antetokounmpo then took a playful jab at Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich, whom he met a few years back during the playoffs and got to know.

"He’s a great player," Antetokounmpo said. "He has a little bit of pressure on him now, to bring a championship to this organization. I’m going to text him every day from now on. Mark told me it’s hard because you can tell people who join this sport, they’re really competitive and they want to win and it’s kind of hard not to stick your nose into a player’s business.

"I might be an owner, but I’m a player at the same time, so I’m going to definitely be reaching out and telling him, talking about the game and motivating in any way possible to win games."

Antetokounmpo revealed the deal was done to join the Brewers’ ownership in early May, but the decision was made to hold off announcing it to not distract from the Bucks’ run to the championship. To bring him into the group, each ownership member had to give up a percentage of their shares, which Attanasio said was a unanimous decision.

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo

"We’ve really been fortunate in many ways here, fortunate to get enormous support from the community," Attanasio said. "I don’t like to talk about the fact that we’re a small market, demographically the smallest market in baseball. But with the huge support we get from our fans and our sponsors, we punch way above our weight and have shown we can compete every year, including this year.

"We’ve had huge support from our ownership group. One of the reasons we haven’t added an owner in 17 years is the group has always worked extremely well and cohesively together, starting with the local owners in the community here. ... I haven’t wanted to disrupt that chemistry we have among our group.

"We’re trying to have some of that good karma that Giannis and his teammates created to rub off on us. ... Who wouldn't want Giannis as part of their team?"

Antetokounmpo, who was given a Brewers No. 34 jersey to put on, revealed that he hadn’t met Attanasio in person until earlier Friday but was impressed by talking digitally to him and seeing what the Brewers’ ownership group has done and its commitment to the community.

It has been a whirlwind summer for Antetokounmpo since scoring 50 points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to lead the Bucks to their first title since 1971. He took the Larry O’Brien trophy and his Finals MVP trophy for a visit to his native Greece, then drew a crowd by showing up at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Now, he jumps on board a first-place team in the Brewers, who entered a weekend series against Washington with a 74-48 record and 8½-game lead in the National League Central.

Antetokounmpo signed a $228 million supermax extension before the 2020-21 season, a deal that could keep him in a Bucks jersey for the next five years.

He's familiar with the playbook of a star athlete buying into another major sports franchise in the state. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been a Milwaukee Bucks minority owner since 2018.

Asked why he wanted to become an even bigger part of the community with this move, Antetokounmpo said, "Milwaukee has made me who I am today. Without Milwaukee giving me the opportunity, I wouldn't be who I am today. It made me a better person, it made me a better man. I've grown to love the city. I want to raise my family here in Milwaukee.

"I made the commitment to stay with the Bucks for the next five years, but there's more to life than basketball. I'm a very competitive person, and basketball is my core, but there's more to it and I feel like I'm in a position to use my platform to impact people, starting here in Milwaukee, going all the way to Greece, the country I was born in, to Nigeria, the country my parents are from. I just love Milwaukee.

"They found a diamond in the rough, in the dust. They believed in me, they trusted me, they embraced me. The city has loved me and my family and I want to give that love back now.

"Milwaukee helped me, invested in me and this is an opportunity to invest back in the city."

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Giannis Antetokounmpo joins Milwaukee Brewers ownership group