Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title in 50 years, scoring 50 points in a series-clinching win over the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night. It wrapped an epic Finals performance only three weeks after he hyperextended his left knee. Antetokounmpo joined Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in NBA history to be named both Finals and regular season MVP , as well as Defensive Player of the Year.
Giannis and Bucks owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan, who bought the team for $550 million in 2014, are the big winners with the title. Walt Disney Studios likely also cheered the Milwaukee win. The entertainment giant is working on a live-action feature film, Greek Freak, based on the extraordinary journey of Antetokounmpo and his family—from undocumented Nigerian immigrants living in Greece to the top of the NBA.
The original storyline of Giannis—winning back-to-back NBA MVPs in 2019 and 2020—made for a solid movie finish, but both seasons ended in disappointment with the Bucks knocked out of the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. But now Disney gets its Hollywood ending with the 26-year-old Antetokounmpo holding the NBA’s ultimate prize.
The Blind Side-like biopic is expected to start production later this year in Greece and the U.S. Antetokounmpo spread the word of a casting call on Twitter for actors to portray him and his brother Thanasis, who also plays for the Bucks (brothers Kostas and Alex play professionally in Europe). Newcomer Uche Agada was cast in the role of a young Giannis. He auditioned after seeing the open casting call from Antetokounmpo on social media, according to Variety. Antetokounmpo will executive produce the movie, which is slated for streaming service Disney+.
Antetokounmpo didn’t start playing basketball seriously until he was 13, practically old age in the American AAU system. He said he started to “help my family” and “get them out of the struggle.”
Antetokounmpo captured new fans during this playoff run with his play on the court, including an epic block and alley-oop dunk. His podium performance also got noticed with a viral response on ego, pride and humility. “I try and focus in the moment. In the present. And that’s humility,” he opined. Last night he added in his postgame press conference, “I know I’m a role model. But this should make every person, every kid, anybody around the world believe in their dreams.”
The five-time All-Star ranked No. 17 in Sportico’s tally of the world’s highest-paid athletes, with $49 million for the 12 months ending May 31. He ranked fifth among NBA players. Next season, he kicks off a new five-year, $228 million deal with the Bucks, the largest contract in NBA history.
Nike is the biggest chunk of his $27 million off-court income, and he is their only foreign-born signature basketball player. Antetokounmpo’s first signature shoe was released in 2019 and was an instant hit. “We’re excited about the long-term potential of the signature line,” said then-Nike CEO Mark Parker during an earnings call in 2019. “Not only did the Zoom Freak 1 become the largest initial signature launch in Nike basketball history, his apparel line sold out quickly as well, with the Freak T-shirt becoming the top-selling apparel item on Nike.com.”
Other endorsement partners include TCL, JBL, 2K Sports, T-Mobile, Aegean Airlines, Budweiser and Ready Nutrition. The NBA title will trigger multi-million dollar bonuses for Antetokounmpo from sponsors, led by Nike.
Producing Hollywood movies has become a rite of passage for NBA MVPs. LeBron James is the most active with his SpringHill production company behind Space Jam: A New Legacy, the recent Naomi Osaka Netflix documentary and dozens of other projects. Kevin Durant’s Thirty-Five Ventures produced the 2020 documentary Basketball County: In the Water that explores youth basketball in Prince George’s County, Md. Stephen Curry’s credits include the 2019 Christian drama, Breakthrough, which topped $50 million at the box office.
James, Durant and Curry have dominated the NBA landscape the past 15 years with a combined 19 Finals appearances and seven MVPs. Durant is the youngest at 32. Giannis proved this playoff run that he is not playing second fiddle to anyone anymore. Time to make room for a new king of the court.