The superstar recently admitted that after a loss to them in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, some ideas about where his future might lead took hold.
After winning a second consecutive NBA MVP award for the 2019-20 season, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks again fell short in the playoffs when they were eliminated by the Heat in the second round. Able to agree to a contract extension to remain in Milwaukee, he sought opinions on how to proceed.
“That summer, I was calling people that were in my position in the past,” he told ESPN. “I was like, ‘What do I do? Do you stay? Do you not stay? Do you stay? Do you not stay?’ And everybody was basically telling me not to stay.”
Antetokounmpo instead ultimately signed an extension and then helped the Bucks win the 2021 NBA championship.
This offseason, after another playoff loss to the Heat, this time in the first round as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the 28-year-old found himself in an eerily similar situation.
Able to commit to the Bucks with another contract extension on the table, he wondered aloud if the team remained committed to competing for championships. Then, late in the offseason, the organization demonstrated its intentions to him by trading for All-Star guard Damian Lillard in a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Though the trade cost the Bucks former champion Jrue Holiday, the addition of such a high-profile player seemed to be enough to convince Antetokounmpo that Milwaukee is all in. Despite reported recruiting pitches from other NBA stars, he signed a three-year extension worth $186 million that can run through the 2027-28 season if he exercises a player option.
The Heat were among the teams linked to Antetokounmpo before he signed the extension. Instead, they must continue to compete against him in an effort to get back to the NBA Finals this season and going forward.
Despite failing to land Lillard, Holiday or Bradley Beal this offseason, the Heat remain confident they can continue to contend for a championship. Franchise player Jimmy Butler has been emphatic in replying to those who continue to doubt the Heat’s title chances.
The Heat and Bucks get to renew their burgeoning rivalry on Monday when they meet in Milwaukee to end Miami’s upcoming three-game road trip.