Report: Rival superstars were recruiting Giannis Antetokounmpo before he signed Milwaukee Bucks extension

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

There were reportedly some NBA stars who were recruiting Giannis Antetokounmpo to join them before the Milwaukee Bucks superstar essentially took himself off the market by agreeing to a lucrative contract extension to stay with his current team.

“The temperature was rising,” wrote Ramona Shelburne. “Rival superstars had begun reaching out to Antetokounmpo, pitching new collaborations, league sources told ESPN. Rival teams had already begun planning for a potential bidding war, league sources told ESPN, should Antetokounmpo ever become available.”

After the two-time NBA MVP hinted he might be willing to move on if the Bucks weren’t committed to winning another championship, the team traded for Damian Lillard in a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Less than a month later, Antetokounmpo re-upped with a three-year contract worth $186 million that begins with the 2025-26 NBA season and includes a player option for the 2027-28 campaign.

The deal aligns closely with Lillard’s contract extension, which ends with a player option for the 2026-27 season. That means, in all likelihood, the two stars will be teammates in Milwaukee at least until then. The Bucks will likely be title contenders throughout that time.

Certainly any team would want the 28-year-old, who last season averaged a career-high 31.1 points per game and added 11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per contest. He shot 55.3 percent from the field, making him one of only three players in NBA history, and the first since the 1972-73 season, to average more than 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game while shooting at least 50 percent overall in a season.

Milwaukee was the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season when they were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat, which may have led to some of Antetokounmpo’s discontent this offseason.

The ESPN report did not state which rival superstars did the recruiting, but it has been well-documented that the Heat were searching for a superstar to add to its core of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

They were unable to trade for Lillard, Jrue Holiday or Bradley Beal, and after Antetokounmpo said he might be willing to leave Milwaukee, they were almost immediately linked to him.

The Los Angeles Lakers were reported as a possibility for the big man, as were the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder.

That is all moot for now, and the Bucks, led by one of the best players in the league, enter the 2023-24 season as one of the favorites to win the NBA championship.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.