A recently completed mural of Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo rises 54 feet high on the side of Downtown office building, and it’s quickly becoming a community gathering spot. On Friday, more than 250 people packed a small parking lot adjacent to the building at 600 E. Wisconsin Ave. to mark the completion of the project. Music blared and fans danced with joy under sunny skies during the lunchtime gathering.
The Bucks, Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District #21 and 600 East joined to produce the new mural of the Greek Freak, painted by contemporary artist Mauricio Ramirez.
“I think it turned out great. Way better than I expected,” Ramirez said in an interview. He signed his work with black spray paint during the festivities.
Ramirez shifted from his signature “poly-wave” style to a more photorealistic, pixilated style, which often leads observers to believe that an artist has created a photograph using raw materials.
“Some people doubted that I could do it, but here we are today,” Ramirez said.
The mural depicts 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, where thousands of fans have gathered during Bucks playoff games.
Ramirez and his assistant, Antonio Gomez, worked 12 to 14 hours per day on the mural over the course of a few weeks. The mural covers the east façade of the building that houses Nelson Schmidt advertising agency.
Ramirez smiled as he looked out over the festive crowd that gathered to see his finished work.
“It’s community. It just shows how symbolic Giannis is to the city of Milwaukee and how unifying his image and his presence is,” Ramirez said. “His entire story has such a positive impact. I think that’s what American is built on. Coming here, making a name for yourself, and supporting your family and city.”
Ramirez’s smile broadened after hearing that Antetokounmpo had seen the mural and given it an emphatic stamp of approval.
“It’s unreal. I can’t believe it,” Ramirez said. “To have that set of eyeballs on your work, it’s the biggest honor. I just hope he feels honored in the same way, and respected, and his family, too. His kids can see this as they grow up.”
The mural is part of an ongoing effort by the Bucks to support public art in Milwaukee.
“The Bucks have always dreamed about being part of the fabric and landscape of Milwaukee and today we literally are in the landscape of Milwaukee. This is an awesome mural,” Bucks President Peter Feigin said.
Feigin praised Ramirez for “capturing the essence of Giannis in this gigantic mural.”
“It’s really beyond special,” he said. “Giannis has seen this. Giannis has loved this. He has talked about it. And it really is one of the moments in Bucks history that will last for years to come.”
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson praised Ramirez for his “artistry and dedication to every minute detail in this stunning new mural that means so much to the citizens of Milwaukee.”
“The mural on this wall is a new reminder of who we are as a city and as a nation,” Johnson said. “The American dream is alive and well right here in Milwaukee and cities like it across the country. A place where hard work, grit and determination are not just recognized but rewarded. Giannis did it the hard way and he’s proud to do it the hard way.”
Friday’s celebration came just a few hours before the Bucks were set to take the court at Fiserv Forum against the Boston Celtics with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat on the line. Milwaukee leads the series 3-2 after a stunning comeback win in Boston on Monday night.
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.
Ramirez said he will be inside Fiserv Forum on Friday night as the Bucks look to wrap up the series versus the Celtics. He issued what has become a familiar refrain among devoted fans of the reigning NBA champs.
“Bucks is six,” Ramirez shouted.