Giannis Antetokounmpo is already a towering presence on the basketball court for the reigning World Champion Milwaukee Bucks. Now, his likeness with rise three stories high on a Downtown office building.
The Bucks, Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District #21 and 600 East are producing a new mural of the Greek Freak, which is being painted by contemporary artist Mauricio Ramirez. The 54-foot-by-56-foot mural will adorn the east facade of a building at 600 E. Wisconsin Avenue.
“I’m honored to paint this photorealistic mural of Giannis Antetokounmpo on Wisconsin Avenue, a prime location in Downtown Milwaukee,” Ramirez said. “This collaboration is a nod to one of the greatest basketball players in the game and what he has done and continues to do for our city.”
The mural is expected to be completed by next week, said Ramirez, who started the project on Monday.
“It’s such an honor to be painting a high-profile athlete who is not just dominant in the NBA but a good person overall,” Ramirez said during a brief break in his work on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s just been a huge inspiration.”
Ramirez said he and his assistant, Antonio Gomez, have been working 12 to 14 hours per day on the mural.
“It’s one of my biggest projects,” Ramirez said. “To merge art and sports together is my jam.”
He’s moving from his signature “poly-wave” style to a more photorealistic style, which often leads the public to believe that an artist has created a photograph using raw materials.
“That isn’t always the easiest things to do,” Ramirez said. “I want to make sure I get it right and give something for the residents of Milwaukee to be proud of and to continue to elevate public art in the city of Milwaukee.”
The mural is part of an ongoing effort by the Bucks to support public art in Milwaukee, Bucks’ chief marketing officer Dustin Godsey said.
The mural will depict Antetokounmpo in a green Bucks jersey with his name emblazoned across the back in white lettering. He’s facing west, purportedly fixing his gaze toward Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ home court, and the surrounding Deer District.
“We want to thank Mauricio for his extraordinary ability to capture the essence of Giannis, and we look forward for this mural to be appreciated and enjoyed for years to come,” Godsey said.
The idea for the project was raised just a couple weeks ago, he added.
“We raced to get this put together during the playoffs,” Godsey said.
The Bucks are set to play the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of a best-of-seven series Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum. Milwaukee holds a 3-1 advantage in the first-round series.
The Bucks won their first NBA title in 50 years last season and only the second in franchise history. Antetokounmpo led the way, capturing the NBA Finals MVP award. Antetokounmpo is also a two-time winner of the regular-season MVP award and has changed the fortunes of the franchise since being drafted with the 15th pick in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft. At age 27, Antetokounmpo already is the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, recently passing Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“Giannis has a personality that is larger than life and we are hoping that this mural captures the essence of the Bucks MVP,” said Gabriel Yeager, downtown environment specialist for Milwaukee Downtown.
Nelson, a long-time Bucks season ticket holder and fan of the team, said he’s excited that the franchise chose 600 East, which houses his advertising agency, Nelson Schmidt, for this “fantastic tribute” to Giannis.
“Mauricio’s artistry showing Giannis figuratively looking forward – and literally toward downtown Milwaukee, the Deer District and his Fiserv Forum home court – seems fitting for a champion who has achieved so much yet continues to strive to improve every day,” Nelson said.
Nelson described the photograph that the Bucks selected for the project as “inspirational and monumental.”
Godsey said he hasn’t spoken directly with Antetokounmpo about the mural because the superstar has been laser focused on the team’s fortunes in the playoffs.
“But I’m sure he knows about it, and we’ll be excited to get his reaction once it’s all done,” he said.