By Martin J. Greenberg and Alex Utrup
Coming off a Most Valuable Player (‘MVP’) season in 2018-19, Giannis Antetokounmpo (“Antetokounmpo”) said that he was only at “60 percent of [his] potential, as good as [he] can be.” Even with this claim, Antetokounmpo is arguably one of the best basketball players in the world and the Milwaukee Bucks (“Bucks”) would like to retain their superstar for years to come. Before signing his Supermax extension, Antetokounmpo had one year remaining on his contract, making him a potential free agent in 2021. However, when the 2020-21 free agency period began, the 2019 and 2020 MVP was eligible to sign a five-year contract extension, which was projected before the coronavirus pandemic to be worth approximately $254 million. On December 15, 2020, Antetokounmpo made it official and signed the extension with the Bucks for $228.2 million. The Bucks were the only team that could offer this length and figure in a contract to Antetokounmpo, so the other NBA teams had to hope he turned down this lucrative offer in order for them to have a chance at signing him. This is all made possible by the Designated Veteran Player Contract, also known as the “Supermax” Contract, which was created by the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”).
II. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Antetokounmpo was born on December 6, 1994, in Athens, Greece. His parents, Charles and Veronica, immigrated from Lagos, Nigeria three years before he was born. Although Antetokounmpo was born in Greece, he was not a citizen by birth and was effectively stateless for eighteen years, not having citizenship papers from Greece nor Nigeria. While growing up, his parents struggled to find work as immigrants, so Antetokounmpo and his brother, Thanasis, would sell items on the streets such as watches, handbags, sunglasses, key rings, CDs, and DVDs.
It was not until 2007 that twelve year old Antetokounmpo started playing basketball, and after two years became a member of the Filathlitikos’ youth team. In 2011, Antetokounmpo played for the senior’s team of Filathlitikos which was affiliated with Greece’s third-tier level semi-pro league. After reaching the top professional club at Filathlitikos, the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) and other European teams started to take notice of his play and potential. In December 2012, the Spanish club CAI Zaragoza acquired his playing rights with a contract starting in 2013-14, but the contract also included NBA buyout options for each year of the contract. However, Antetokounmpo never got the chance to play for the Spanish club because shortly after signing the contract he was granted Greek citizenship and a passport and less than two months later was drafted by the Bucks fifteenth overall in the 2013 NBA draft.
Antetokounmpo signed his rookie scale contract, which was two-years, worth $3.67 million with team options for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. He became one of the youngest players to ever play an NBA game (18 years and 311 days). Playing in seventy-seven games for the Bucks in his rookie year, Antetokounmpo averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. With these numbers, Antetokounmpo was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second team and became the twelfth player in Bucks’ franchise history to receive an All-Rookie team honor.
Before the 2014-15 season, the Bucks exercised the third-year contract option on Antetokounmpo’s rookie contract extending him through the 2015-16 season. In his ‘sophomore’ season, Antetokounmpo greatly improved his offense, scoring in double-digit figures in sixty out of the eighty-one games he played. Additionally, he became the youngest Bucks player in franchise history to accrue 1,000 points. As a result of his strong play during his first two years, the Bucks exercised the fourth-year contract option on Antetokounmpo’s rookie contract extending him through the 2016-17 season.
In his third season, 2015-16, the forward continued to improve his overall play, averaging 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game in eighty games. Antetokounmpo also became the youngest Bucks player to record a triple-double when he had 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 22, 2016. Following the season, Antetokounmpo, at age twenty-one, signed a near maximum contract extension with the Bucks for four-years, $100 million extending him through the 2020-21 season.
Fresh off the contract extension, Antetokounmpo started the first half of the 2016-17 season on fire, which led to him being named a starter on the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. His breakout season did not stop at the All-Star Game either, and he continued his dominance throughout the year and finished with career highs in points (22.9), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.4), steals (1.6), and blocks (1.9). Furthermore, Antetokounmpo became the first player in NBA history to finish in the top twenty of players in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Antetokounmpo was named to the All-NBA Second team, his first All-NBA honor, and also received the NBA Most Improved Player Award for the 2016-17 season.
In the 2017-18 season, Antetokounmpo averaged 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game in seventy-five games. He was named a starter for the 2018 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles, becoming the first Bucks player since Marques Johnson (1979-80) to be named a starter in two straight All-Star Games. Antetokounmpo’s strong season earned him another All-NBA Second team, and he quickly became one of the league’s most prominent player.
Antetokounmpo began the 2018-19 season on a tear, earning the Eastern Conference Player of the Month Awards for October/November, December, and February. For the third season in a row, he was named a starter for the 2019 All-Star game in Charlotte and was the captain for Team Giannis. Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game in seventy-two games and led the Bucks to the best record in the NBA, and eventually to the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Bucks were defeated 4-2 games by the Toronto Raptors. As a result of his stats, Antetokounmpo was named All-NBA First team, NBA All-Defensive First team, and the NBA’s 2019 Most Valuable Player. Antetokounmpo became the second Bucks player to win MVP, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Not only was twenty-four year old Antetokounmpo the third-youngest player to win the MVP over the previous forty seasons, but he also became the fifth player born outside of the United States to win MVP.
Since 2013, Sports Illustrated has ranked the top 100 NBA players each season. LeBron James has been ranked number one since the inception of the Sport Illustrated rankings, however, there is now a new number one. When the rankings were released in September 2019, Antetokounmpo was at the top of the list followed by Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, respectively. In order to formulate the top 100 rankings, Sports Illustrated uses a combination of subjective assessment and objective data, and attempts to evaluate each player independent of his current team situation as much as possible. As noted by Rob Mahoney, writer for Sports Illustrated, “This is the future. This is Giannis’s world.”
Beginning the 2019-20 season, the NBA did seem like it was Antetokounmpo’s world as he picked up right where he left off from the 2018-19 season. While leading the Bucks to the best record in the NBA at 39-6, Antetokounmpo was averaging 30.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.0 blocks to begin the 2019-20 season. For the second straight year, he received the most All-Star votes in the Eastern Conference and was a captain for the 2020 All-Star game in Chicago. However, on March 11, 2020, the NBA halted its operations when Utah Jazz center, Rudy Gobert, tested postive for coronavirus. It was not until July 30th, 2020 that the NBA restarted their season in a “bubble” at Disney World. Each team played eight regular-season
games before the start of the playoffs, which was four-rounds of best-of-season.
After the Bucks eight-regular season games in the bubble, the Bucks entered the playoffs with the NBA’s best record. Antetokounmpo finished the 2019-20 season averaging 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game. Despite another MVP caliber season from Antetokounmpo, the Bucks fell short of a championship, losing to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in a five-game series. Although it was not the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, Antetokounmpo brought home some hardware for the 2019-20 season. Antetokounmpo was awarded the 2020 NBA MVP, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA First team, and NBA All-Defensive First team. Antetokounmpo joined an elite list, as Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon are the only players to win the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.
Antetokounmpo has certainly risen to fame—from selling items on a street in Greece to winning back-to-back NBA MVP. For example, TIME Magazine listed Antetokounmpo in the 100 most influential people of 2020. Antetokounmpo recently set a basketball card record where a signed rookie card of his sold for $1.812 million, the most expensive basketball card sold in modern history. Antetokounmpo also made history when Nike officially released his first signature shoe and apparel line in June 2019. According to Nike’s CEO, Antetokounmpo’s shoe, “the Nike Air Zoom Freak 1, became the largest initial signature launch in Nike Basketball history . . . and the Freak T-shirt became the top-selling apparel item on Nike.com.”
III. The Supermax Contract
Following an offseason where Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma Thunder to join the NBA’s best team (Golden State Warriors), the NBA and the Players Association worked on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement during the 2016-17 season. The NBA sought to give the “home team” a better chance at re-signing its star free agents so the Designated Veteran Player Contract, or better known today as the “Supermax” Contract, was created. With this change, teams with a soon-to-be star free agent can offer that player a longer deal and more money than any other team. Ideally, the Supermax Contact was created to help small market teams compete in free agency with larger market teams in order to avoid situations similar to that of Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder.
A. Collective Bargaining Agreement
The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, commonly abbreviated as “CBA,” is the legal contract between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (“NBAPA”) that sets forth the rules under which the NBA operates. The CBA defines rules such as the salary cap, the minimum and maximum salaries, the rules for trades, the procedures for the NBA draft, and other various matters that need to be defined in order for a league to function. The CBA is the League’s infrastructure and roadmap. Since the CBA was first established in 1970, eleven additional agreements have followed to date.
Breakdown of the NBA’s CBAs:
|Start Year||End Year||Milestones|
|1970||1973||First CBA. Increased minimum salaries. Added playoff pool and per diem.|
|1976||1979||Suit blocking NBA/ABA merger settled. Added limited free agency (with team compensation).|
|1980||1983||No-trade clauses eliminated.|
|1983||1987||Added Salary Cap, “Bird” rights. Technically not a new CBA, rather a Memorandum of Understanding modifying the terms of the 1980 agreement.|
|1988||1994||Added unrestricted free agency. Length of draft reduced.|
|1994||1995||Temporary “No-strike, no-lockout” agreement.|
|1995||1998||Ended 1995 lockout. Added rookie scale contracts. Not actually signed until 1996, and re-opened in 1998.|
|1999||2005||Settled 1998-99 lockout. Added maximum salaries, Mid-Level exception; escrow & luxury tax.|
|2005||2011||Luxury tax in effect every season. Reductions in contract lengths & raises.|
|2011||2017||Players’ guaranteed share of revenue reduced. Further reductions in contract lengths & raises. Greater penalties for taxpaying teams. Originally effective through 2020-21; with a mutual opt-out for 2017.|
|2017||2024||Designated veteran provision. Two-way contracts. Mutual opt-out for 2023.|
The 2011 CBA had a 10-year term, but a mutual opt-out after the 2016-17 season. During the 2016-17 season, the NBA and the NBAPA agreed to the terms for a new CBA before the opt-out date, which took effect on July 1, 2017. One of the most important additions in the 2017 agreement was the Designated Veteran Player Contract giving veteran players an opportunity to earn more money.
B. The Provisions in the CBA
Although there are many “stars” in the NBA nowadays, only a select few qualify for a Designated Veteran Player Contract. In order to be eligible for a Supermax Contract, the player must be entering or have just completed his eighth or ninth season in the NBA. In addition, the team offering the contract must be the team that drafted the player or traded for the player while he was under his rookie contract. Lastly, there are performance criteria that a player must meet in order to be eligible for a Supermax Contract. The player must meet at least one of the following three performance criteria:
(1) The player was named to the All-NBA First, Second or Third team in the most recent season, or the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.
(2) The player was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.
(3) The player was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in any of the three most recent seasons.
Normally, players who have seven to nine seasons of experience can earn a max contract worth thirty percent of the salary cap. However, a Supermax Contract creates an exception to this rule that allows players who have played seven to nine seasons and meet the criteria to be offered thirty-five percent of the salary cap in the initial year of the Supermax Contract. Ultimately, how much money a player is paid depends on how much the salary cap actually is or is projected to be for the year. To note, the NBA salary cap for the 2019-20 season was set at $109.14 million. The following graph depicts salary caps from 2001 to 2019 and the projected salary cap for 2020 to 2024 prior to the coronavirus pandemic:
These projected numbers were calculated prior to the coronavirus pandemic and it is uncertain how the pandemic will affect the NBA salary cap. When the NBA had to shut down due to the pandemic, there were expectations that the salary cap would drop for the upcoming season. However, the NBA finalized the 2020-21 season’s salary cap at $109.140 million, remaining flat or at the same level as the 2019-20 season. The salary cap will be crucial in terms of how much money Antetokounmpo actually ends up receiving from the Supermax Contract.
In addition to the thirty-five percent of the team salary, there is an eight percent increase in pay for each year after the initial year of the Supermax Contract. Here is an example of how these percentages work in a Supermax Contract:
The most recent Supermax Contract was signed by Damian Lillard (“Lillard”). He signed a four-year Supermax extension with the Trailblazers, but his current contract is not over until after the 2020-21 season. Thus, his first season of his Supermax Contract will be the 2021-22 season. The NBA’s projected salary cap for the 2021-22 season is $125 million, which could be subject to change due to the coronavirus pandemic, thus Lillard will make $43.75 million in the initial year of his Supermax extension (thirty-five percent of the salary cap). Each subsequent year of the contract, Lillard’s salary will increase by eight percent. So, with that in mind, Lillard will make $47.25 million (eight percent increase of 43.75) in 2022-23, $50.75 million (sixteen percent increase of 43.75) in 2023-24, and $54.25 million (twenty-four percent increase of 43.75) in 2024-25.
Furthermore, the length of the Supermax Contract depends on the player’s years of NBA experience and years remaining on his current contract. If the player still has one or two years left on his contract at the time of the signing of the Supermax Contract, the maximum length that the player can be signed to is six seasons. Therefore, an eligible player who has completed seven or eight seasons in the NBA and has one year left on his contract is eligible for a five-year Supermax Contract. Correspondingly, an eligible player who has completed seven or eight seasons in the NBA and has two years left on his contract is eligible for a four-year Supermax Contract. Players that are eligible for a Supermax Contract with eight or nine seasons but have no years remaining on their contract are eligible for a five-year Supermax Contract. Finally, once a player signs a Supermax Contract the team cannot trade that player for one year.
C. The Supermax Players
During the 2017 offseason, the first offseason when teams could offer players a Supermax Contract, four players were eligible. The first player to sign a Supermax Contract was Stephen Curry (“Curry”), who signed a five-year, $201 million Supermax extension with the Golden State Warriors that runs through the 2021-22 season. At the time, it was the League’s richest contract in history and the first time a contract had crossed the $200 million threshold in the NBA. Curry gained his eligibility to receive a Supermax Contract by winning the league’s MVP in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. Shortly after Curry signed his Supermax Contract, James Harden (“Harden”) signed one with the Houston Rockets. Harden was named to an All-NBA team for the 2016-17 season which made him eligible for a Supermax Contract. Harden had two years remaining on his contract, worth around $58 million, allowing him to sign a four-year, $170 million Supermax extension. This extension runs through the 2022-23 season and guarantees Harden $228 million.
Towards the end of the 2017 offseason, John Wall (“Wall”) and Russell Westbrook (“Westbrook”) became the third and fourth players to sign a Supermax Contract. Like Harden, Wall made an All-NBA team for the 2016-17 season making him eligible for the Supermax extension with the Washington Wizards. Wall had two years remaining on his contract and, like Harden, signed a four-year, $170 million extension that runs through 2022-23 for a total of $207 million over the six seasons. Westbrook won the league’s MVP award in 2016-17, making him eligible for a Supermax Contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His Supermax extension was for five-years, $205 million with one year remaining on his previous contract. The deal goes through 2022-23 and at the time it gave Westbrook the largest guaranteed contract in NBA history at $233 million over six seasons.
Surprisingly, no player signed a Supermax Contract in the 2018 offseason, and Lillard became the next player to sign a Supermax Contract in the 2019 offseason. Lillard earned Second team All-NBA honors for the 2018-19 season after earning First team honors in the prior season. Before signing, he had two years remaining on his contract which made him eligible to sign a four-year, $196 million extension with the Portland Trailblazers. His deal runs through the 2024-25 season and guarantees him $257 million over the six seasons.
D. Players Affected by the Supermax Contract
Teams must decide whether a player is worth a Supermax Contract, and as a result, not all players that qualify for a Supermax Contract end up signing one. As shown by a few trades, the Supermax Contract dilemma can force a team to trade its best player when it otherwise would not have. At the end of the 2016-17 season, Jimmy Butler (“Butler”) was named to the All-NBA Third team as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Since he made another All-NBA team in the 2017-18 season, the Bulls could have offered Butler a five-year, $220 million Supermax Contract. Although Butler was a top fifteen player in the League, the Bulls decided they wanted more cap space flexibility instead of giving Butler, at age 28, thirty-five percent of their salary cap. Accordingly, the Bulls ended up trading Butler and the sixteenth overall pick in the 2017 draft to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh overall pick (ended up selecting Lauri Markkanen).
Similar to the Butler situation in Chicago, the Sacramento Kings faced the same problem with Demarcus Cousins (“Cousins”). Cousins made All-NBA teams in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, making him eligible to sign a Supermax Contract after the 2016-17 season. However, the Kings opted for younger players and draft picks instead of signing Cousins to a Supermax Contract. During the 2016-17 season, the Kings traded Cousins and Omri Casspi to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and the Pelicans’ 2017 first-round and second-round pick.
Meanwhile, players must also consider if the money is enough to outweigh their desire to play elsewhere. Kawhi Leonard (“Leonard”) had a great run with the San Antonio Spurs, the team that traded for him the same night that the Indiana Pacers took him fifteenth overall in the 2011 NBA draft. While he was with the Spurs, the team won the 2014 NBA Championship, and Leonard was named Finals MVP. A few years later, Leonard was named to the All-NBA First team in back-to-back seasons for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. As a result, at the end of the 2017-18 season, the Spurs were able to offer Leonard a five-year Supermax Contract, worth around $219 million. However, during the 2017-18 season the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs deteriorated as a result of a dispute over the best treatment for Leonard’s quadriceps injury. Shortly after, Leonard requested a trade. The Spurs ended up trading Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in an exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 top-twenty protected first-round draft pick. As a result of the trade, Leonard lost the ability to sign a Supermax Contract and would only be able to sign a max deal of five-years, worth around $190 million with the Raptors. In the end, Leonard played one season with the Raptors, winning the 2019 NBA Championship and then signed a three-year, $103 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2019 offseason.
Another situation that was like Leonard’s was the New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis (“Davis”) dilemma. Davis was selected first overall by the Pelicans, formerly the Hornets, in the 2012 NBA draft. While on the Pelicans, Davis earned All-NBA First team honors in three seasons, 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2017-18. Because of the All-NBA honors in back to back years, Davis was eligible in the 2019 offseason for a Supermax Contract. The Pelicans were able to offer Davis a five-year, $239.5 million Supermax extension, but unfortunately the relationship between the two parties went sour. Davis requested a trade before the 2018-19 season trade deadline but was not traded until the 2019 offseason which sent him to Los Angeles Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round draft picks.
As shown, the result of being eligible for a Supermax Contract does not always end up with the player signing with their original team. Adam Silver hoped Supermax Contracts would early up the discussion and that “[p]art of the goal in ‘early-ing’ up the discussion was that those players then wouldn’t reach the end of their contracts and, frankly, surprise teams by then announcing they were leaving.” Thus, even if a player leaves the team it does not mean the team failed because the team will receive some value from a trade.
IV. Giannis, the Bucks, and the Supermax Contract
Antetokounmpo has just completed his seventh year of service in the NBA and will be entering his eighth season. The contract extension that Antetokounmpo signed with the Bucks in the 2016 season had one more season left, and after the 2020-21 season he would have been a free agent. Antetokounmpo was eligible to sign a Supermax Contract because he will be entering his eighth season and was originally drafted by the Bucks in the 2013 draft. Additionally, Antetokounmpo met the performance criteria in order to be eligible for a Supermax Contract. As mentioned earlier, a player must accomplish one of these three performance criteria to receive a Supermax Contract:
(1) The player was named to the All-NBA First, Second or Third team in the most recent season, or the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.
(2) The player was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.
(3) The player was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in any of the three most recent seasons.
Antetokounmpo accomplished the first performance criteria by being named to an All-NBA team the past three seasons, 2019-20, 2018-19 and 2017-18. Although he needed only one of the three performance criteria to be eligible, Antetokounmpo also accomplished the second and third performance criteria by being named the Defensive Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season and the NBA Most Valuable Player for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.
With Antetokounmpo meeting all of the criteria, the Bucks were able to offer a five-year Supermax Contract extension that was once expected to be worth a League record projected at around $254 million. However, the new number of the deal is about $228.2 million.
There is no question that Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the League, so it was a no-brainer that the Bucks offered him this lucrative deal. It was known that the Bucks would eventually offer Antetokounmpo the deal. In September, 2019, general manager Jon Horst (“Horst”) said the Bucks plan to offer Antetokounmpo a Supermax Contract during the 2020 offseason. The Bucks were fined $50,000 for Horst’s statement which violated league rules that prohibit teams from talking about future player contracts. In the recent CBA, a provision was added that states that teams cannot commit to offering a player a Supermax Contract until that player has completed his seventh season. At the time of Horst’s statement, Antetokounmpo had only completed his sixth season.
Before he signed the Supermax Contract, there was speculation that it was ultimately going to come down to whether Antetokounmpo wanted to stay with the Bucks or go to another team. According to Malika Andrews of ESPN, Antetokounmpo has expressed his affection for Milwaukee since being drafted, but “winning will be the prime consideration in his next contract, and he will have to be convinced that the Bucks can be perennial contenders.”
There is no question that Antetokounmpo loves the City of Milwaukee. He speaks passionately about the City and has made significant impact on the community. Since being drafted by the Bucks, Antetokounmpo has expressed his appreciation of Milwaukee, stating, “I can feel the love from the city every day I step on the floor.” Antetokounmpo also mentioned that, “[Milwaukee] is my home. All I know is loyalty and this is an organization that (has preached that) since day one and hopefully I can help them bring joy to the fans and bring joy to the city in the future with a championship.” Moreover, Antetokounmpo gives back to the community that has continued to support him. One example of his generosity was in 2018 when he partnered with the Bucks and Pick ‘n Save to donate approximately $50,000 worth of food to charities in the Milwaukee area for Thanksgiving. More recently, Antetokounmpo and his family donated $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum workers when the NBA suspended its season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On the basketball side, the Bucks’ general manager, Horst, has continued to make an effort to surround Antetokounmpo with talent in order to maximize his potential. In May 2018, the Bucks agreed to terms with Mike Budenholzer to be the new Bucks’ Head Coach with a four-year contract. Budenholzer is known for building his offense around three-point shooting and this scheme proved successful during his first season as Head Coach of the Bucks. Budenholzer was able to coach the Bucks to the best record in the NBA in the 2018-19 season, ultimately taking them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Nevertheless, there were concerns on how the Bucks were going to be able to keep the core of this playoff team together with multiple player contracts up at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Horst started to clear up the concerns midway into the season by extending the team’s point guard, Eric Bledsoe (“Bledsoe”). Bledsoe’s original contract was expiring after the 2018-19 season making him a free agent during the 2019 offseason. Bledsoe and the Bucks agreed to a four-year, $70 million extension that will keep him on the Bucks through the 2022-23 season.
When the 2019 offseason free agency began on July 1st, 2019, the Bucks did not waste any time in signing two other players that were crucial to the 2018-19 season’s success. The Bucks re-signed its center, Brook Lopez, to a four-year, $52 million deal that will make him a Buck through the 2022-23 season. In addition, Khris Middleton originally declined his player option on the final year of his previous contract, which was valued at $13 million, but eventually agreed to re-sign with the Bucks. The Bucks guard agreed to a five-year, $178 million deal keeping him on the Bucks through the 2023-24 season.
Despite resigning Bledsoe, Lopez, and Middleton, the Bucks still fell short of the NBA finals with their second-round loss to the Heat. After the season, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks’ governor, Marc Lasry (“Lasry”), had a three hour meeting to discuss the future of the Bucks. The discussion focused on how the Bucks’ roster can be improved for the 2020-21 season and Lasry confirmed that “the Bucks would spend into the luxury tax if needed.” Going into this offseason, it has been reported that the Bucks could be one of the busiest teams. Regardless of how the 2020 offseason shook out, Antetokounmpo confirmed that he would not be asking for a trade in the last year of his contract if he ended up declining the Supermax Contract.
The Bucks were quick to make some moves at the start of the 2020 NBA offseason. The Bucks swung a day for Jrue Holiday, acquiring him from the New Orleans Pelicans in a four-team trade. Holiday is under contract for this coming season and has a player option for 2021-22. Also acquired was the draft rights to the 2020 second round pick Sam Merrill. In exchange for the two players, the Bucks sent Eric Bledsoe, two first round draft picks and two first round draft picks in future years to the Pelicans while sending George Hill to the Thunder and the draft rights to 2020 first round pick R.J. Hampton to Denver. Shortly after this deal, it was reported that the Bucks acquired Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Kings in exchange for Donte Divincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova, and D.J. Wilson. However, this deal fell through as Bogdanovic, a restricted free agent, never agreed to a sign and trade and instead decided to test the free agent market.
The Bucks must have done enough in the offseason to convince Antetokounmpo, as he signed the Supermax Contract on December 15, 2020. The final agreement was for $228.2 million, five-year Supermax extension with the Bucks including a player option for the 2025-26 season. When he signed the deal, Antetokounmpo tweeted “[t]his is my home, this is my city.. I’m blessed to be able to be a part of the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 5 years. Let’s make these years count. The show goes on, let’s get it.” Antetokounmpo is now under contract with the Bucks through at least the 2024-25 season and possibly the 2025-26 season if he opts in. This will give him the opportunity to sign another lucrative deal as he enters his 30s. Moreover, the contract also features a 15% trade kicker in the event the Bucks decided to trade Antetokounmpo later in his contract.
With Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Holiday and Lopez leading the team, the Bucks have a great shot at making a run for the NBA championship this upcoming season. With Antetokounmpo signing the Supermax Contract, this puts the core of the Bucks (Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Lopez) on the team through at least the 2022-23, barring any trades. Further, it puts the dynamic duo from the successful 2018-19 season, Antetokounmpo and Middleton, on the Bucks through the 2023-24 season. Behind Antetokounmpo, Budenholzer, and this supporting cast, the Bucks could be championship contenders for years to come.
The 2020 offseason once again presented an opportunity to see the true success of the 2017 CBA’s Designated Veteran Player Contract or the “Supermax” Contract. It again worked in the way the NBA imagined it would, as the Bucks were able to lock in its home-grown talent, Antetokounmpo, to a long-term deal. The Bucks were able to prove to Antetokounmpo that they could be a perennial contender. As the only team that could throw in thirty-five percent of the salary cap with an eight percent escalation in each subsequent year, it made sense for Antetokounmpo to sign the Supermax Contract. All eyes will be on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks this upcoming season, as the Bucks look to be on top of the Eastern Conference and win the NBA championship.
Giannis must have examined his relationship with the City of Milwaukee and the Bucks and must have concluded that he is playing in a state-of-the-art facility, surrounded by a sports.comm, he has a dedicated ownership group with unlimited financial resources, and he is part of a team and ownership group that wants to win a championship. Giannis is a Wisconsin hero, with a personality and image that is admired and worshiped by fans. The Bucks have a dedicated fan base and Giannis is someone who is very special to the sports world. The Supermax Contract is what makes small markets survive. Thank you, Giannis, for your loyalty. Now, let’s win a championship.
Alex R. Utrup is a third-year law student at Marquette University Law School and a 2021 Sports Law Certificate Candidate. He is currently the Executive Editor for the Marquette Sports Law Review (Volume 31), and a member of the Sports Law Society. While at Marquette, he has held roles as a legal intern for Martin J. Greenberg, a legal intern for the Wisconsin Herd, and an Extern with the Office of the Committees on Infractions at the NCAA. Utrup is also competing in the Tulane International Baseball Arbitration Competition in January 2021. Prior to his time at Marquette, Utrup earned his bachelor’s degree from Hastings College, with a double major in Marketing and Recreation & Sports Management, with an emphasis in Sports Management. In addition to his academics, Utrup was a member of the Hastings College Baseball team. In the Spring of 2021, Utrup will graduate with a J.D. from Marquette University Law School.
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 The 2017 NBA-NBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement refers to the supermax contract as the Designated Veteran Player Contract. See 2017 NBA-NBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement (effective as of July 1, 2017), https://cosmic-s3.imgix.net/3c7a0a50-8e11-11e9-875d-3d44e94ae33f-2017-NBA-NBPA-Collective-Bargaining-Agreement.pdf.
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 Giannis Antetokounmpo Named Kia NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month, NBA.com (Mar. 1, 2018), https://www.nba.com/bucks/news/giannis-antetokounmpo-named-kia-nba-eastern-conference-player-month.
 Giannis Antetokounmpo Selected as Starter And Team Captain for 2019 NBA All-Star Game, NBA.com (Jan. 24, 2019), https://www.nba.com/bucks/news/giannis-antetokounmpo-selected-starter-and-team-captain-2019-nba-all-star-game.
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 See Giannis Antetokounmpo Player Stats, supra note 50.
 Ricky O’Donnell, The Bucks Failed Giannis Antetokounmpo, Not the Other Way Around, SBNation (Sept. 9, 2020), https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2020/9/9/21419462/milwaukee-bucks-giannis-antetokounmpo-free-agency-2020-nba-playoffs-miami-heat.
 See Eric Woodyard, Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo Wins Second Straight NBA MVP Award, ESPN (Sept. 18, 2020), https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/29913814/sources-milwaukee-bucks-giannis-antetokounmpo-wins-second-straight-mvp-award; See also Jasmyn Wimbish, Giannis Antetokounmpo Wins 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year in Landslide; Anthony Davis Second in Votes, CBSSports (Aug. 26, 2020), https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/giannis-antetokounmpo-wins-2019-20-defensive-player-of-the-year-in-landslide-anthony-davis-second-in-votes/#:~:text=NBA%20Schedule-,Giannis%20Antetokounmpo%20wins%202019%2D20%20Defensive%20Player%20of%20the%20Year,Anthony%20Davis%20second%20in%20votes&text=When%20the%20NBA%20announces%20its,show%20that%20comes%20with%20it.
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 The Designated Veteran Player Contract language can be found in the 2017 NBA-NBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Article II, Section 7(a)(ii) states “for any player who has completed at least seven (7) but fewer than ten (10) Years of Service, the greater of (x) thirty percent (30%) of the Salary Cap in effect at the time the Contract is executed, or (y) one hundred five percent (105%) of the Salary for the final Season of the player’s prior Contract; provided, however, that a player who has eight (8) or nine (9) Years of Service at the time the Contract is executed and rendered such Years of Service for the Team with which he first executed a Player Contract (or, if he was under a Player Contract for more than one Team during such period, changed Teams only by trade during the first four (4) Salary Cap Years in which he was under a Player Contract) shall be eligible to enter into a Designated Veteran Player Contract pursuant to which he receives from his Prior Team up to thirty-five percent (35%) of the Salary Cap in effect at the time the Contract is executed (the “Designated Veteran Player 35% Max Salary”) if the player has met at least one of the following criteria at the time his Contract is executed: (i) the player was named to the All-NBA first, second, or third team, or was named Defensive Player of the Year, in the immediately preceding Season or in two (2) Seasons during the immediately preceding three (3) Seasons; or (ii) the player was named NBA MVP during one of the immediately preceding three (3) Seasons (the “Designated Veteran Player 35% Max Criteria”).” See 2017 NBA-NBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement (effective as of July 1, 2017), https://cosmic-s3.imgix.net/3c7a0a50-8e11-11e9-875d-3d44e94ae33f-2017-NBA-NBPA-Collective-Bargaining-Agreement.pdf.
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 Owens, surpa note 168.
 Insider, One of the Bucks’ Big Trades Meant to Appease Giannis Antetokounmpo Fell Apart and Became a Confusing Mess, Yahoo Sports (Nov. 20, 2020), https://sports.yahoo.com/one-bucks-big-trades-meant-235528524.html.
 Woo, supra note 5.
 Marc Stein, Giannis Antetokounmpo Signs $228 Million Extension with Bucks, N.Y. Times (Dec. 15, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/15/sports/basketball/giannis-antetokounmpo-bucks-contract-extension.html
 Woo, supra note 5.
 Luke Adams, Giannis Antetokounmpo Signs Super-Max Extension with Bucks, Hoops Rumor (Dec. 15, 2020), https://www.hoopsrumors.com/2020/12/giannis-antetokounmpo-to-sign-super-max-extension-with-bucks.html#:~:text=5%3A30pm%3A%20The%20Bucks%20officially,reports%20Charania%20(via%20Twitter).