If you're a sports fan, and haven't heard that the Greek Freak (Giannis Antetokounmpo) signed a very lucrative deal with the Milwaukee Bucks this week, I might think you've been hiding under a rock this week before Christmas. Beginning the 2021-22 season, his contract is for five years for a total of $228 million -- a supermax deal. This is fantastic news for basketball fans, especially in the Dairy State. By not joining another team next season, this move appears to add more parity to the league as a small market team should remain competitive for years to come.
In the wake of this news, I've read sports and podcast commentary being perplexed that he's decided to stay in Milwaukee for another 5 years (after this season). Some sports writers wonder how such a popular player wouldn't opt for warmer and more glamorous locations such as Dallas, Miami, or LA. They also wonder why he wouldn't opt for Florida or Texas, as these two states don't have an income tax, he'd pocket more money by opting for a new start in Miami or Dallas -- locations and basketball teams that appear to have a stronger brand than the largest city in Wisconsin. Also, some have said, he could join a very strong team that could quickly compete for an NBA championship.
A brief history on the Milwaukee Bucks franchise. The Bucks started in the NBA in 1968-69 season and two years later, won it's only championship. For those keeping score on the Bucks franchise, that's 1 championship in over 50 years. They were led by Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson and made league history in 1971. After winning a championship and playing for the Bucks for 6 years, Kareem felt Milwaukee was too small and provincial and forced the Bucks' organization to trade him to the LA Lakers. Will Giannis be the next superstar to lead the Bucks to another championship?
Perhaps it's not fair to say and weak comparison, but the Green Bay Packers, some 100 miles north of Milwaukee, have captured 13 titles in their historic franchise.
Born in Greece to Nigerian parents, Giannis was drafted 15th in the 2013 NBA draft. Because of his speed, size and ball-handling skills, it earned him the nickname "Greek Freak."
Is he a great player? Is Giannis dominate on the hardwood? Of course he is but it's quite complicated. Having played for the Bucks in the last 7 years, he has won the NBA's MVP over the last two seasons. Having said that, he's never brought his team to the Eastern Conference title. With a fairly strong cast behind him, it begs the question why hasn't the Bucks haven't been more successful in the playoffs. Because he was a raw talent when he arrived in Milwaukee at a very young age, I will grant him a mulligan for the first 3 seasons or so. However, the next few seasons will be a leading indicator on whether he can get the Bucks to the NBA finals and win their first title in the 21st century.
I'm not a math student but I do know that this new contract is roughly $45 million per year, a lot of money for someone playing basketball. There are some 'old school' individuals when hearing of this contract may say it's ridiculous to pay any athlete this amount of money let alone a basketball player. I get it, but supply and demand comes into play, there are a handful of athletes who can play like Giannis, which means, he has the most leverage in this business arrangement. Good for him.
Going back to the history of the Bucks, Lew Alcindor at the time was a dominate center in the post and won in his third season. Indeed, Giannis is an exciting player with great vision, jumping ability, and a freak of an athlete, perfectly made for the NBA. Having said that, a player's legacy besides dunking, and blocking shots, comes down to down to the number of NBA titles. For context, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley were great NBA players but because they are absent any titles, history will show they will fail to ever reside in the top 10 of all-time NBA players.
One thing that didn't sway Giannis from signing the supermax deal with the Bucks had nothing to do with their rallying cry, 'Fear the Deer.' I know there are perhaps a million or more deer in Wisconsin, and the White-Tailed Deer is listed as one of its state animals, but in my estimation, that expression doesn't put fear in their opponents. Corny and not necessarily cute, but what other options do you have?
Speaking of the state income tax, the rate in Wisconsin is 5.46%. That means if he earns roughly $40 million each year, that state will collect a little over $2 million. Some of these same commentators felt it might make more sense to go where your money goes further but he had other ideas.
Giannis was quoted as saying, " The way that this city has supported me and my family has been amazing from day one," Giannis said. "I was 18, I'm 26 right now. All I know is Milwaukee. When I came here I fell in love with the city, it's a city that loves basketball. It's a place that I want to be, it's a place that I want to raise my kids. I feel good here. My family feels good here. I'm good."
In other words, he feels the love from Milwaukee -- they have supported him during these last year's getting him and his family acclimated there. Some news reports said it was his mother that sealed the deal to stay in Milwaukee -- it's not that simple but her love for the city and comfortable life did help to solidify the deal. Another factor is they took a chance on him, drafting him 15th as the other 14 NBA teams for whatever reasons didn't pull the trigger on this rising star. Also, I'm a little surprised that he choose to stay in Milwaukee with harsh winters -- coming from sunny Greece must have been a big adjustment but with all the love the organization and fans showed him after he arrived and during his early tenure with the Bucks seemed to help seal the deal.
And if Giannis is happy, the Bucks are too, and so is Milwaukee as is the entire state of Wisconsin.