In July, the Milwaukee Bucks re-signed forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the older brother of two-time MVP teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the 6-foot-6 wing revealed in a recent interview with BasketNews that he nearly signed with the New York Knicks last month.
BasketNews: “Just how close were you to leaving Milwaukee for New York?”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo: “Close. Obviously, Giannis is my brother, and obviously, I love Milwaukee. I love Milwaukee. But at the same time… I want to play. You always want to play and feel important. And at the same time, you want, like… It’s just because of how I am as a player.
“That would be different if I were in Europe and any other team. But now it became a little bit more like, oh, okay, he’s on the team because… But I was like, ‘You know what? No. Why would I do this?’
Thanasis Antetokounmpo reveals he was ‘close’ to leaving Milwaukee for the Knicks this summer
“Obviously, Giannis is my brother, and obviously, I love Milwaukee. I love Milwaukee. But at the same time… I want to play. You always want to play and feel important. And at the… pic.twitter.com/4IGpQXDIaU
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“Ultimately, I sat down with the new coach [Adrian Griffin]. During the free agency, I was off in Greece. But I sat down with the new coach and talked with him. He said he appreciates the way I play; he values my game. You know, every coach has a different opinion of everybody.
“But when I picked the teams, hearing the coach and everything… I thought this was the place for me. And obviously, the Milwaukee fanbase has been… You don’t know how much I love the Milwaukee Bucks, their fanbase, and how the city has embraced my family for so many years. So it was kind of a no-brainer.”
BasketNews: “Was there a specific conversation that had a major influence on your decision?”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo: “I was in Greece all the time. So, while I was in Greece, I didn’t talk about free agency.”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo re-signed with the Milwaukee Bucks in July on a one-year, $2.35 million contract, nearly inked a deal with the New York Knicks
BasketNews: “So, only Giannis had the power to influence your choice?”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo: “No, but not only Giannis… We have a great culture in Milwaukee. We have great stuff. And just with the change and everything… Two years ago, when I hit the free agency and signed a two-year deal, many teams wanted to give me an opportunity.
“And back then, I thought I was part of a winning culture and a winning team. But at the same time, I wanted an opportunity to help the team in any way that I could. But most importantly, for the player, it is very important not to let anybody else create a narrative for you. And if someone starts creating a narrative… No, no, no. This is not who I am. This is not what we do.”
Moreover, it would have made sense for Antetokounmpo to sign with the Knicks this offseason. As a native of Athens, Greece, the forward was selected 51st overall by New York in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Antetokounmpo spent the 2013-14 season with the Delaware 87ers (now Blue Coats) of the NBA Development League (now known as G League). The wing then appeared in only two NBA games with the Knicks in the 2015-16 season. Of course, Antetokounmpo played for the Westchester Knicks, New York’s G-League affiliate, from 2014 to 2016.
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The Greek standout played for Spanish pro league Bàsquet Club Andorra S.A. (2016-17 ACB season) and Greek pro league Panathinaikos B.C. (2017-19) of the Greek Basket League and EuroLeague.
While with Panathinaikos, Antetokounmpo became a two-time GBL champion (2018, 2019), two-time GBL Most Spectacular Player (2018-19), three-time GBL All-Star (2013, 2018, 2019), and two-time GBL All-Star Game MVP (2018, 2019).
In 2019, the forward made his return to the NBA. Since then, Antetokounmpo has spent his last four seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s made 11 starts in 164 career NBA games. He signed a two-year, $3.61 million contract with the Bucks in August 2021.
In 37 games off the bench with Milwaukee in the 2022-23 season, Antetokounmpo averaged 1.4 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 5.6 minutes per game while shooting a career-low 43.5% from the floor and 50% at the foul line.
Additionally, in the Bucks’ 121-105 regular-season finale loss against the Toronto Raptors on Apr. 9, he posted a season-high 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 28 minutes off the bench.