Wednesday December 6, 2023

Lillard And Giannis Pairing Could Be Big For The NBA, Too

  • Bucks to be featured on national TV 19 times this season
  • Trade could help prompt Antetokounmpo to sign massive contract extension
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
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The trade sending NBA superstar Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks will potentially create another superteam — just as the league is in the market for a massive new domestic media rights deal.

The Bucks were already a prominent franchise thanks to their 2021 championship and two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. But beyond the benefits for the Bucks, the blockbuster three-team deal with Phoenix and Portland will be further good news for the NBA’s media partners. 

The Bucks will be featured in 19 nationally televised games this season, including an opening-night clash against Philadelphia on Oct. 26, a Christmas Day game against New York, and subsequent matchups against the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State, and Boston.

The increased hype will only help the league in its pursuit of the next cycle of media rights — and its target of $50 billion to $75 billion in aggregate rights. 

“You’re looking at more buzz, more ratings, and every big Bucks game now becoming more of an event,” Lee Berke, president and CEO of consulting company LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media, told FOS. “Having another superteam definitely doesn’t hurt.”

“The NBA’s going to do fine [in the next rights deal]. They’ve got great demos, and are already in a great spot. This deal just solidifies that story a bit further,” he added.

Unsurprisingly, the trade immediately thrust the Bucks into the consensus NBA title favorite among U.S. sportsbooks and created a social media firestorm, with many fans and pundits likening the new pairing to that of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant or Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Giannis Considerations

The trade also promises to heavily impact contract talks between Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The Greek-born star is eligible to sign a three-year contract extension worth about $173 million but has held off while he assesses the Bucks’ future. 

The Lillard deal follows a separate transaction this past spring in which Bucks co-owner Marc Larry sold his interest in the team to Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his Haslam Sports Group at a $3.5 billion valuation. 

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