Here's why Giannis Antetokounmpo may be on the verge of pulling a Kevin Durant, even as the Bucks dominate the Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best basketball player in the world.
You’re all wrong. The Greek Freak is the most gifted player on the planet. Paradoxically, that should worry Milwaukee fans.
Even if the Bucks are willing to pay him the super-max this summer (five-years for an estimated $253 million), there is still a chance he could jump ship.
Where? No one knows, but Wednesday night, it certainly looked like Steph Curry was trying to plant a suggestion.
If that wasn’t enough to get the rumor mill going in overdrive (and it was), then reports of an autographed jersey from Curry with a long note sitting in Antetokounmpo’s locker after the game certainly did.
You could almost hear a collective groan as the clip went viral. But at the same time, no one should be surprised. It was only a few years ago that the Warriors launched a dynasty by recruiting Kevin Durant.
At the time, Durant may have been the best player in the world, so why wouldn’t Curry and the Warriors recruit the star who holds that title now?
But Antetokounmpo wouldn’t do it, would he? He wouldn’t sell out like many accused Durant of doing, just to win an NBA title.
Or would he?
Like every athlete, he wants to win. If he can’t do that with the Bucks, he’ll probably leave for another team. Should that happen, then he absolutely should go to the best team he can.
You may call it selling out, but let’s call it what it is—smart.
According to a Harvard professor doing a study on the Bucks and the challenges that small-market NBA teams face, Giannis Antetokounmpo did have some concerns about the team heading into the 2019-20 season (via USAToday):
I want the Bucks to build a winning culture. So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there’s no other place I want to be. But if we’re underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult.
With a 33-6 record after Wednesday night’s win over the Golden State Warriors, it is safe to say the culture he wanted exists. But if they don’t make the Finals this year and he doesn’t think they can make it next year, he could still jump ship no matter how well the regular season goes.
Why not? Injuries have decimated the Warriors this season, but when healthy, they are the definition of a “winning culture.” His salary would be tricky, but there are ways the Warriors could make it work.
Of course, Curry claims there’s no recruitment going on.
Still, rumors circulated before the season that the Warriors intend to make a run at Antetokounmpo should he test free agency in 2021.
But would Giannis really do it? Would he take the easy way to the NBA Finals and create a super team?
From what we know of him, the answer is a hesitant “no.” But can we really blame him if he eventually says, “yes?”
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.