Fresh off leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title in 50 years, Giannis Antetokounmpo is shifting some of his attention from the hardwood to the baseball diamond.
The NBA Finals MVP donned a Milwaukee Brewers jersey – emblazoned with his name and the No. 34, of course – on Friday afternoon at American Family Field after being announced as a new member of the team’s ownership group.
Antetokounmpo is the first new individual investor added to the Brewers ownership group since Mark Attanasio purchased controlling interest in the team in 2004 from the family of then-Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
“The city of Milwaukee means so much to me,” Antetokounmpo said. “I take great pride in my city and I’m excited about what we can build together.”
Attanasio called it a “true honor and privilege to announce today that Giannis and his family will be owners of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball club.”
He said the Brewers have been fortunate to get a high level of support from the community, which has allowed the franchise, located in the smallest market in baseball, to “punch way above our weight” and be competitive on the field. Entering Friday night’s game versus the Washington Nationals, the Brewers sat atop the National League Central division with a 74-48 record.
Attanasio said talks concerning Antetokounmpo coming on as an owner began a year ago. One of the reasons no additional owners have been added over the years, according to Attanasio, is because of the existing group’s ability to work well together.
“I haven’t wanted to disrupt the chemistry we’ve had from our group,” he said. “The group has always pulled together in good times and bad.”
The deal to add Antetokounmpo to the group received approval in May, but an announcement was delayed so as not to distract from the Bucks as they prepared for the NBA playoffs. Terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed.
“We not only have a wonderful human being, leader, family person and community leader as part of our group. We also have a world champion,” Attanasio said. “That’s some of the karma we are trying to have rub off on the Milwaukee Brewers.”
Antetokounmpo said Attanasio urged him not to become a “trouble owner.”
“Every ownership group has one,” Antetokounmpo said with a smile. “I’m going to try not to be that one.”
As a child growing up in Greece, Antetokounmpo, 26, said he always had dreams of becoming a professional basketball player.
“I worked extremely hard to accomplish that,” he said. “But sometimes when you are on the road, you kind of think about what’s next. I know I’m young. I’m going to focus 100% on basketball and getting better and helping my team win a championship. But I wanted to be an owner of a professional team.”
Antetokounmpo said his representatives reached out to Attanasio last year, when the Bucks and other NBA teams were sequestered in the “bubble” in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, due to the COVID pandemic. “I said I want to be involved. I want to be involved in the community and I don’t think there is a better way to start than with the Milwaukee Brewers.”
The idea of becoming an NBA champion and a part-owner of the Brewers is still sinking in for the beloved superstar, known affectionately as the “Greek Freak,” who had to fight for his family’s very survival while growing up in Greece.
“I was trying to do whatever it took to provide my family with food. Help my mom and my parents out as much as possible,” he said. “I never thought I’d be in this position. You can never take this for granted.”
Antetokounmpo readily admitted that his knowledge of baseball is limited, but that didn’t deter him.
“I’ve been to Milwaukee Brewers games in the past. I enjoy it. I enjoy competition,” he said. “I know Christian Yelich. I know he is a great player.”
Despite his young age and a presumably long career in the NBA still in front of him, Antetokounmpo said he has been planning for life after basketball. Among the ideas he considered was pursuing ownership of a European soccer team.
“I said no, I want to be part of the Milwaukee Brewers, if that’s possible,” he said. “Milwaukee has made me who I am today. It’s made me a better person. It’s basically my home. I’ve become a father here. I’ve become a leader here. I’ve become a champion here. … I know Milwaukee invested a lot in me and I want to invest a lot of me back into the city of Milwaukee.”
Antetokounmpo was surprised to learn that about 20 Brewers players attended Game 6 of the NBA Finals and witnessed the Bucks knock off the Phoenix Suns to secure the franchise’s second title.
He also shared a story about how in an earlier round series against the Nets in Brooklyn he was oblivious that singer Beyoncé and rapper Jay-Z were sitting court-side. “My girlfriend is a really big fan of Beyoncé. She told me ‘You saw Beyoncé.’ I said no I didn’t see her. She said ‘But she was sitting courtside. She was right there. I said when I play basketball, I’m so locked into what I’m doing, so I didn’t see Beyoncé.”
Antetokounmpo’s leadership ability, on and off the court, will be a key as a part-owner of the Brewers.
“A lot of us know how to win in business. We now have an owner that knows how to win on the field,” Attanasio said. “I’m really struck by how mature he is. A number of comments he made during the NBA playoffs resonated for me just in life and I’m 63 years old. I think it will be a good symbiotic relationship.”
Attanasio added that there was unanimous support among the existing owners to have Antetokounmpo join the group.
“I just love Milwaukee. They found a diamond in the rough,” Antetokounmpo said. “They trusted me. They believed in me. The city has embraced me. The city has loved me and my family. I’ve just got to give it back now.”