Giannis Antetokounmpo: Extending now helps keep focus on basketball

Windhorst: Giannis extension sets tone for the season (2:08)

Brian Windhorst and Tim Legler discuss the ramifications of Giannis Antetokounmpo's extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. (2:08)

MILWAUKEE -- Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo says he signed his new three-year contract extension to remain in Milwaukee in order to keep the focus on basketball and not allow his future to loom over a team that hopes to win a championship this season.

"I knew in my heart that I wanted to stay," Antetokounmpo said after practice Tuesday afternoon fresh off signing a new three-year, $186 million extension. "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."

Antetokounmpo's new deal bypasses potential free agency in 2025 and re-affirms his commitment to the franchise, where he is now signed until his player option for the 2027-28 season. The move sent shockwaves around the NBA just days before the 2023-24 season; it came as a surprise considering Antetokounmpo at the team's media day a few weeks earlier stated his desire to sign an extension next summer instead.

However, following the Bucks open scrimmage on Sunday in Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo said he began discussing possibilities with his family, including his brother, Thanasis, who is also on the team. Antetokounmpo initially planned to wait until next summer before extending his contract because he felt like he could earn more money by waiting, but the two brothers mapped out how he could maximize his earnings and still sign another short-term deal again with the Bucks in 2026 and another four-year extension in 2028.

"I think it was the smartest decision I could take for my family, the smartest decision that I could take for basketball," Antetokounmpo said. "Like it's off the table now. I don't have to think about it and just play basketball."

Antetokounmpo recalled a similar thought process when he signed his extension a week before the start of the 2020-21 season. He said he felt like that decision allowed Milwaukee to focus on basketball that season, and the Bucks went on to win their first NBA championship in 50 years.

"It was very helpful," he said. "I didn't have to think about it. And I don't think it's just helpful to me, it's helpful to the team too. They don't want to hear about, 'Oh, Giannis is leaving. Giannis is staying' the whole year."

Antetokounmpo made waves this summer when he stated during multiple interviews that he wanted Milwaukee to prove it was committed to winning another championship before he signed another extension.

The team responded to a disappointing first round playoff exit last season by hiring Adrian Griffin as its new head coach and trading for superstar guard Damian Lillard. Antetokounmpo downplayed how much those moves factored into his decision to re-sign with the franchise, but he added that he felt like it was his responsibility to put the organization at ease.

"I want to be here, right? There's no secret in that, everybody knows that," Antetokounmpo said. "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."

First-year Bucks coach Adrian Griffin said he was ecstatic to learn Antetokounmpo had signed an extension, but that his contract situation would not have loomed over the team had he entered the season without signing it.

"Giannis is not a distraction, he's the best player in the world and I never looked at it as that," Griffin said Tuesday. "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."

The Bucks have now secured each member of their core to long-term contracts. If Antetokounmpo exercises his player option, he and Lillard will be signed through the same season. The team also signed both Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez to new contracts in free agency this summer.

"At the end of the day, Giannis wants to win," Bucks guard Pat Connaughton said. "So when he's committing, he believes that we can win. And I think we all believe we can win as well."