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I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA

Amidst the late afternoon brews and brats on the Fourth of July, credible sources leaked that Gordon Hayward would soon be suiting up a Boston Celtic. It was one of those blockbuster free agency moves that make the NBA’s offseason so tantalizing. One minute, you’re engrossed in a poolside barbeque; the next, you’re scouring Twitter for anything and everything basketball related.

The winners of Hayward’s decision are obvious: Boston, Eastern Conference competitiveness, and borderline Western Conference playoff teams. A notable loser, on the other hand: the small market NBA franchise.

The Utah Jazz drafted Hayward in 2010. Seven years, a stable front office, and a dedicated fanbase couldn’t keep the Butler alum in the Beehive State. But, he also endured five playoff-less seasons with the team. Maybe players do care more about winning than anything else.

Recent history says otherwise. Kyrie Irving wants to leave a perpetually Finals bound LeBron James and the city of Cleveland in search of greater on-court responsibility. Paul Millsap abandoned Atlanta and a secured playoff appearance in the shoddy East to experiment in Denver. The list goes on.

Then, there’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

My DNA not for imitation, your DNA an abomination

On July 6th, Adrian Wojnarowski, in the context of Hayward’s departure, told ESPN’s Ryen Russillo the following:

“You don’t think Giannis has been watching what went on [in Milwaukee’s front office] for the last several months… He’s watching it. And the clock has started. Everybody in the league is trying to figure out how they are going to get him out of there. That has started.”

Boom, NBA Twitter frenzy. What else can be expected from Wojnarowski’s unintended, but nevertheless unnecessary, statement-of-the-obvious fear mongering? Sports media sees a prime opportunity for click bait, and suddenly, the Association’s followers assume Antetokounmpo is already on his way out of Milwaukee.

Salute the truth, when the prophet say…

But wait. Who else but the Greek Freak to salvage Bucks fans’ dissipating sanity in one, wholesome tweet:

“I got loyalty inside my DNA [deer emoji]”

Chills. Goosebumps. What a classic Antetokounmpo moment. He loves Milwaukee and listens to Kendrick Lamar. This freaking guy. But still, an ominous feeling persists. Very few solid NBA players, stars and superstars included, play with only one team for their entire career. It just doesn’t happen. Can our Greek Freak, Point God, and franchise centerpiece be the exception?

First off, not a single individual should be worried about an Antetokounmpo Exodus just yet. The Milwaukee Bucks control his fate for the next four seasons. Barring an enormous organization gaffe, Antetokounmpo will be a Buck for the next four Milwaukee campaigns.

Despite the unlikeliness of Antetokounmpo demanding a trade, the Bucks organization needs to be smart leading up to his free agency. Here lies the harsh truth in Wojnarowski’s comments. Right now, Wesley Edens, Marc Lasry, and Jamie Dinan are in the spotlight for the wrong reason after their General Manager fiasco. And it is evident that Antetokounmpo is watching.

During an event in the Philippines, a fan asked about Antetokounmpo’s thoughts on KD’s departure from OKC in relation to his unofficial pledge of fealty. Here is the Greek Freak’s response:

“A guy might want to stay on a team, but if the team doesn’t do the right things and the right moves for the player to become great… it’s not up to the player”

Antetokounmpo’s response can be taken as a mix between player-player respect and addressing aspects of his own situation. He’s not exactly backtracking on his infamous tweet, but he’s explaining how organizational irresponsibility can overcome loyalty. Loyalty should not be a career death wish.

Before free agency hits, however, Antetokounmpo will almost definitely be eligible for the Designated Player Veteran Extension in the 2020 offseason. This allows the Bucks to offer Antetokounmpo more money and security than any other prospective team. It’s the supermax deals that James Harden and John Wall recently agreed to. If Milwaukee performs as well as Houston and Washington have in the playoffs with their respective stars, Antetokounmpo may be more willing to sign on long-term. It’d definitely be a wonderful start for keeping the Greek Freak in town.

I got millions, I got riches buildin’ in my DNA

 These are just the facts of the circumstance. But money isn’t always everything. Ask David West, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant, to name a few. It comes down to the basic concept that every human is different. Their desires, ambitions, and needs vary depending on their character, which, in turn, is built upon their DNA and upbringing. Some players do value winning and money, but others appreciate change, stability, or loyalty. If Antetokounmpo’s tweet runs parallel to his true feelings, the Milwaukee Bucks are in business for a long, long time.

My gut tells me that Antetokounmpo’s genetics are laced with loyalty. It’s no secret that Antetokounmpo lived a tough life in Greece. Being illegal Nigerian immigrants, his parents struggled to find well paying jobs in an unwelcoming country. He sold trinkets on the street to help his family barely make ends meet. We know how the story goes. First, basketball found him. Then, the Bucks found him.

I got power, poison, pain, and joy inside my DNA

Antetokounmpo was destined for greatness with or without the Bucks’ risky 2013 NBA Draft selection. But still, it was Milwaukee that gave him that first major opportunity. Now, he lives pleasantly in Cream City, alongside his parents and girlfriend, enjoying the life of a low-key NBA superstar.

Again, let me be perfectly clear: Antetokounmpo didn’t need the Bucks’ help. He is his own, self-made man; he owes Milwaukee nothing.

But who knows how Antetokounmpo thinks? Milwaukee was his and his family’s first taste of a financially, socially, and politically comfortable life (and his beloved smoothie). Presumably, he has deep connections to individuals in and around the Bucks organization — a well documented one being his relationship with Bucks assistant coach Sean Sweeney. To put it simply, the beginning of Antetokounmpo’s new life is founded in the roots of Milwaukee.

This is what sets him apart from the Gordon Haywards, Kevin Durants, and Chris Pauls of the NBA world. If these guys made difficult decisions in deciding to leave their incumbent teams, Antetokounmpo’s decision is going to be on the verge of impossible.

I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA

Antetokounmpo radiates loyal vibes. Taking off my Bucks-Fan-Vision, I find it difficult to imagine an NBA where Antetokounmpo is not in the green and cream. Milwaukee loves him, but more importantly, he loves Milwaukee. He wants to win an NBA Title with us. The Greek Freak has loyalty inside his DNA.


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