Giannis Antetokounmpo is staying in Milwaukee. The two-time NBA MVP's decision to remain with the Bucks shocked many on Tuesday, as he agreed to a new five-year contract extension worth $228.2 million. While this move will take a lot of the excitement out free agency in 2021, it will ultimately be great for the league.
Antetokounmpo's new deal is the largest in NBA history, which is fair considering he's won back-to-back MVPs and has been named All-NBA in four consecutive seasons. It's a lot of money for the small market Bucks to take on, but now their job has to be ensuring he can consistently contend for championships over the next five years.
That last part is why this is a big deal for the league. These days, stars in smaller markets often bolt for the big time as soon as they're eligible to do so. They either head for a bigger market or attempt to form a super team. There's rarely anything in between. Giannis has decided to go in the other direction. Instead of forcing his way into a big market like Anthony Davis and so many others have, he's staying home and being loyal to the team that drafted him No. 15 overall back in 2013.
The Bucks have the fourth-smallest market in the NBA, but now they've locked up one of the league's best players for a long time. That's a success story other markets can now attempt to copy. The Memphis Grizzlies (29th market size) can now at least have hope they'll be afforded the opportunity to build around Ja Morant for the future and maybe the New Orleans Pelicans (30th market size) can feel more encouraged about retaining Zion Williamson for the next decade.
The NBA needs small market success stories if it wants to push the idea that the league has parity. The San Antonio Spurs were perhaps the biggest "small market" triumph in league history and they managed a decade-and-a-half of success. But the Spurs were viewed as an aberration, a weird mix of a genius coach who was content with his job and a superstar in Tim Duncan who shied away from the spotlight. San Antonio's success didn't look like a template that could be copied in other cities.
The Bucks have the chance to do that. With Giannis locked up and backed by Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, they can legitimately make another run at a title this season. If Holiday opts-in to his $27 million option for next season, they'll have at least two legit shots at a title. Who knows what will happen after that, but having Antetokounmpo on board will Milwaukee will be an attractive destination for other players.
The rumors connecting Antetokounmpo to the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors can finally be laid to rest. He's staying in Milwaukee and providing a huge boost to one of the NBA's smallest markets. The impact of that decision will reverberate around the league and ultimately be a huge positive.