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Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Decision: Family Over a Shoe Deal

Giannis Antetokounmpo recently recalled making a pivotal decision in 2013 to prioritize family over a lucrative shoe deal. Speaking on the “Thanalysis Show,” a podcast hosted by his brother and fellow Bucks player, Thanasis, Giannis revealed why he opted to leave Adidas when the company was hesitant to sign his brother to a deal as well.

Photo via Instagram @giannis_an34

The star Milwaukee Bucks power forward, Giannis, recounted his explanation of why he instead inked a contract with Nike in 2013 and re-signed in 2017, Sports Illustrated reported.

One Deal Lost, One Won

Giannis has a history with Adidas, so when a representative who was cozy with him invited the Antetokounmpo family for dinner to discuss plans about signing a contract that would promptly set the boys up for a camp to be seen and drafted by a prominent league, whether it be the NBA or a European league. 

Initially excited for the deal, Giannis and his brother Thanasis and their mother followed up with a meeting with the representative, who had a shift in his tone. The new deal presented excluded Thanasis. Both Antetokounmpo brothers had played for the Filathlitikos Greek team between 2011 and 2013. Giannis was not pleased with this exclusion. The Adidas representative told Giannis that he would eventually sign his big brother a week later, but Giannis was not convinced or moved by this assurance.

“‘We are not going to sign your brother today. You are going to sign yours first, and then we are going to bring your brother in a week to sign his,’” Giannis recalled the Adidas rep of saying. “Nuh-uh. No, thank you.”

The decision to walk away from the deal was difficult for the Antetokounmpo family, as they were in a difficult financial situation. Giannis, who was still 17 years old, at the time, expressed that the representative could have offered him toilet paper standing and cash and he would’ve signed, an admission that he desperately needed financial stability at the time.

“At the end of the day, we had no say. We could have put some toilet paper next to some cash. … I would probably sign it because we were really in need. We were not able to take care of our family in a way, in the best way. He knew that,” Giannis said.

Nike came into the picture when a woman named Susan Mulders of Nike Basketball contacted Giannis by phone. Giannis was hesitant about abandoning Adidas for Nike, showcasing his loyalty. When Giannis inquired about whether his signing would include his brother, Susan responded, according to Giannis, with a nonchalant “yeah, sure, whatever.”

Nike initially signed Giannis to a $20,000 per year deal when he was a first-round pick. However, in 2017, the deal was upgraded to approximately $10 million per year. As part of the agreement, Giannis was promised a signature shoe under Nike. The first Giannis signature shoe debuted in June 2019 to great success. Following the positive reception of the initial release, Nike also launched the Nike Air Zoom Freak 2 in July 2020.

In 2021, the Bucks, Giannis and Thanasis on their roster, won the NBA championship, with the younger brother winning the MVP award.

According to Sports Illustrated, Mulders is now Nike Basketball’s Senior Director of Sports Marketing in North America. By contrast, the unnamed Adidas representative got fired five years after failing to secure deals with the Antetokounmpo brothers — perhaps unrelated to their situation.

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