Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a 5-year, $228 million extension with the Bucks in a huge win for the NBA’s small markets

Giannis Antetokounmpo. Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is signing a five-year, $US228 million extension with the Milwaukee Bucks.
  • Antetokounmpo would have been a free agent next summer and was reportedly being targeted by teams like the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks.
  • Antetokounmpo’s extension is a big win for a successful, small-market team in an era when free agents are increasingly leaving for bigger, more glamorous cities.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is staying in Milwaukee, and many around the league are rejoicing.

The reigning MVP announced on Tuesday that he plans to sign an extension with the Bucks. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, that extension is worth $US228 million over five years, setting Antetokounmpo up to earn $US256 million over the next six years.

The Bucks offered Antetokounmpo the so-called “supermax” when free agency kicked off; he had until December 21 to sign it.

Antetokounmpo’s decision was the subject of much intrigue over the last year. Had he not signed it by December 21, he would have hit free agency next summer, potentially leaving the Bucks for nothing. (And the Bucks were not going to trade him early).

The Bucks have built a perennial contender around Antetokounmpo but have failed to reach the Finals, leaving some to wonder if the small-market team was good enough to keep one of the NBA’s burgeoning stars.

Rumours circulated that the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks would have pursued Antetokounmpo if he had hit free agency.

The thought of a two-time MVP leaving a Bucks team that had built a contender around him and been at the forefront of analytics and sports science for another team because of … better weather? better endorsement opportunities? … scared many small-market franchises.

Indeed, one NBA GM told Insider that Antetokounmpo’s extension is of “epic significance.”

After all, in recent years, Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors. Anthony Davis left the New Orleans Pelicans for the Los Angeles Lakers to team up with LeBron James, who had left the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second time. Kawhi Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio, then left Toronto for the LA Clippers. Paul George left the Thunder to follow Leonard. Durant and Kyrie Irving teamed up on the Brooklyn Nets.

There hadn’t been many significant wins for small-market teams in recent years. Antetokounmpo leaving a near-perfect situation in free agency for nothing in return would have been a devastating blow.

Only six players have signed the NBA’s “supermax” — Stephen Curry, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Damian Lillard, and now Antetokounmpo. In Westbrook, Lillard, and Antetokounmpo, the supermax, which pays players 35% of the cap with 8% raises each year, has kept stars in small markets.

Of course, there are consequences to those deals. Wall got hurt, rendering his contract an albatross. Westbrook has been traded twice since signing that deal, most recently for Wall in a unique swap of giant contracts. Harden is now trying to force his way out of Houston.

The Bucks will become the latest team challenged with building around enormous salary cap hits that the supermax brings. Time will tell if the commitment of a star player to a small-market franchise will help lure other free agents to that team. To date, the second- and third-best players on the Bucks, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, were acquired via trade.

Will the Bucks become the model for other small-market teams? Whether their success inspires other superstars in similar positions is unclear, but for now, Antetokounmpo’s extension puts off talk about whether the NBA’s system is broken entirely.