Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo reveals he nearly retired in 2020

Just months before Antetokounmpo won a championship with the Bucks, he was ready to call it quits on his basketball career.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) holds his child, Shai, on Friday, April 7, during a ceremony recognizing his 10-year accomplishments with the team before a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Bucks superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is perhaps the best basketball player on Earth.

He’s a two-time NBA MVP, a seven-time All-Star and an NBA champion after leading the Bucks to the 2021 NBA championship. But just months before Antetokounmpo won that championship with the Bucks, he was ready to call it quits on his basketball career.

“In 2020, I was ready to walk away from the game,” Antetokounmpo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I had that conversation — yes — with the front office.”

The six-time All-NBA honoree cited the pressures of being a star athlete that led him to consider retirement, saying “mental health — it’s big for me.”

“I was in Orlando. I was walking through the hotel and there was three little kids. We were in this hotel that was five minutes away from Disney World. This lady was probably with her grandkids,” Antetokounmpo said. “She was like 55, 60 — she was my mom’s age. And the kids were younger, like 5, 6, 7. And she said, ‘Hey guys, you know who that is?’ No, they had no idea; they was excited to go to Disney World. She turned and was like: ‘That’s the best player in the world.’


“Yeah, it’s good to hear that, but that’s a lot of pressure,” Antetokounmpo added. “Going through that … in order for you to be the best, you have to play like the best. You have to practice like the best. You got to carry yourself like the best, which is not easy. As much as people say I’m handling it well, because that’s my personality … it’s hard. It’s … not easy.”

In December 2020, however, Antetokounmpo signed a five-year, $228 million supermax extension with the Bucks, the team he’s spent his entire career with after they drafted him No. 15 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft.

But even with his new supermax contract signed, the Greek-Nigerian basketball player still considered retirement.

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“And, you know, very normally, everybody is looking at me like I was crazy. ‘You just signed the largest contract in NBA history and you want to walk away from the game and all that money…?’” Antetokounmpo said. “But I don’t care about that. I care about joy. I’m a joyful person. My father didn’t have nothing; he had us. He was the richest person on Earth because he had his kids. He had the beautiful family; he had nothing. This — to me — doesn’t mean nothing.”

Instead, just seven months after Antetokounmpo signed his extension with the Bucks and considered retirement, he led the franchise to win the NBA championship in July 2021, ending the organization’s 50-year title drought that dated back to 1971.

Antetokounmpo has continued his stellar play this season and is one of the top contenders to win the 2023 NBA MVP award. The Bucks are the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs, which begin Saturday, April 15.

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