• Max Milstein

Giannis Antetokounmpo signed the largest contract ever in NBA history

Updated: Jan 4

After consecutive seasons where the Bucks were unable to get out of the East, rumours have been swirling about a potential Giannis departure. But Giannis squashed any doubt this week when he signed a five-year supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks valued at $228M (£170 M) - that’s a lot of smoothies for Giannis.


What is the supermax?

The supermax extension (officially known as the Designated Veteran Player Extension) allows teams to re-sign qualified players to maximum five-year contracts worth up to 35% of the salary cap with 8% increases year on year, rather than have them walk for free in free agency (like Kevin Durant did in 2016). If a player chooses to not take the supermax, their next contract will be smaller.


To qualify for the supermax, players need to meet certain criteria:

  1. The player has to be on the same team he was on at the end of his rookie contract

  2. The player must be entering 8th, 9th or 10th season

  3. The player must demonstrate elite ability by either:

  4. Winning MVP on any of the past three seasons

  5. Winning Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent year or once in the prior two seasons

  6. Named to an All-NBA team in the most recent year or once in the prior two seasons


It is well documented that the NBA is a star-dominated league. After all, you only have five players on the court at once. If you can have the best player on the floor, you always put yourself in a good spot to win.


Although this supermax extension is the largest contract ever, it is honestly a great deal for Milwaukee. Firstly, they get to lock down the two-time reigning MVP and have a real shot at winning the finals this year (and in the years to come). And secondly, the Bucks front office does not need to make any rash decisions in a last ditch effort to try and prevent Giannis from walking in free agency. They now have a five-year window with one of the most dominant players the league has ever seen. However, the decision to offer a player a supermax is not always so obvious, and although it has only been a short history, the supermax has not always panned out so well for the player or the team:

How does Giannis's contract compare to current and past NBA players?

On average, across the five years Giannis will be paid on average $45.6M (£34 M) per season. This is the largest contract ever signed by an NBA player. Just on that contract alone, Giannis would be ranked as the 14th highest paid player of all time!


Nowadays, players are able to get more money than ever before. Relatively small name players i.e. Khris Middleton, especially to non-basketball fans, are getting larger salaries than some of the biggest legends of the game like Kobe and Garnett. The only exception to the rule is Jordan (of course) who was paid $33M (which is £40M when adjusting for inflation) for his last season with the Bulls. In this season, no other teammate on the Bulls even made over $5M (£3.7M) and the NBA had not implemented max contracts like they have now.


How does Giannis's contract compare to other sporting leagues from around the world?


Although Giannis is earning the most on an annual basis, there are players who have signed larger contracts than him. One of these is the ridiculous 10-year deal that Kansas City Chiefs QB Patirck Mahomes signed this year. Mahomes is the only the sixth player EVER in the NFL to sign a 10-year contract. Across the 10 years, Mahomes is going to average $45M (£33.5 M) - this is only a couple hundred thousand short of Giannis on an annual basis.


These longer style contracts are particularly common in Baseball where teams look to lock up their starts for longer time horizons. As you can see, a lot of the highest paid baseball players are in contracts for 8+ year periods. However, as a trade-off for a long-term contract, their annual pay tends to be lower than their American Football and Basketball counterparts.


Giannis also beats out all the biggest stars in the world’s game - Football. However, a lot of the figures used here are only estimates as football player salaries are not reported as transparently as their US counterparts. As expected Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar all reported to receive very generous salaries up their amongst the largest in the world. But surprisingly, despite the PL being the biggest league in the world, the top players get paid significantly less compared to their US counterparts. Bale is a slight exception to this rule who is reportedly being paid £31M for his one year at Tottenham, despite struggling to even make it in their best XI. But after Bale, the next highest paid player is a considerable drop and is much lower than the other highest paid athletes in this graph. In fact, at the moment, the top paid player at the top club in the PL - Mo Salah at Liverpool - only earns £10.4M per year. Although, still significantly large, that's a third of what Giannis earns!


The above analysis only takes into consideration team sports. However, an honourable mention should be made to Lewis Hamilton who reportedly is getting paid 40M annually by Mercedes. At this figure, this would put him well and truly above Giannis.

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