Wes Edens had a hand in the rise of 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo – and could create similar waves for Jack Grealish at Aston Villa.
Words: Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH
“He’s a special basketball player, obviously, but he’s an even more special person,” said Wes Edens of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“What you see is what you get. He’s an amazing guy, amazing to the organisation and his family. He’s really an incredible character”
“Obviously, we want to be a part of his life for the rest of his basketball career.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the stand-out player for National Basketball Association side Milwaukee Bucks. The player, affectionately nicknamed “The Greek Freak”, was born in Greece after his parents moved from Lagos, Nigeria in 1991.
He is currently the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player and his Bucks side this season has a commanding best record in the league with 46 wins and 8 losses. Giannis is averaging career highs in points (30.0) and rebounds (13.5) on 54.9% shooting for the table toppers.
By many accounts, Antetokounmpo is regarded as the best player in the entire league.
Giannis IS the Milwaukee Bucks franchise, with no disrespect to his fellow teammates and coaches. You see, Giannis has been with the Milwaukee Bucks since entering the NBA in 2013 as a teenager via the NBA Draft. In his rookie season, Giannis became the sixteenth youngest player in the association’s history to take to the court at 18 years and 311 days old.
He has been with the Bucks to see things such as a rebuilding process, a new state of the art arena which he would call home, different sets of coaching staff and different mentors. All the while, Giannis has turned down multiple lucrative opportunities in search of one thing: winning.
“I know there a lot of things that come with being a celebrity, being on the front page covers and all that, but it doesn’t really excite me,” said Antetokounmpo.
“There are a lot of things that I’ve turned down. Movies, commercials, endorsement deals, because I really don’t care. I just want to win.”
“I want to help this city, bring a championship to this city.”
Wes Edens, also co-owner of Aston Villa, has a similarly minded superstar at his football club.
Of course, Aston Villa aren’t doing anywhere near as well as the Milwaukee Bucks by comparison this season. But when the Bucks had to rebuild, they did it around Giannis and a few other talented young players.
In this rebuild, Edens is navigating his way around Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish.
Jack Grealish has been the stand-out performer for Aston Villa this season. Depending on who you might ask in football circles, most will claim that Jack Grealish IS Aston Villa. He was born a Villa supporter, and now finds himself as the talisman and captain for the club that runs through his family’s veins. It’s more than a club, it is history, family, pride and purpose. When the bone hits the marrow, Jack Grealish was born to play for Aston Villa Football Club.
The endless and vast jury of football pundits and journalists are starting to come around to the idea that Grealish is a special talent and has a lot of room to continue improving. His play for Aston Villa has been nothing short of mesmerising at times. He has the ability to control the game, and unleash the trickery of a wizard with the ball at his feet. Most of the sides positive play happens through him.
Grealish has been getting better and better for two consecutive seasons, accomplishing a personal mission of getting Aston Villa promoted to the Premier League – the most unforgiving yet financially important sports league in the world.
Rumours have been circulating for quite some time around Super Jack. Two seasons ago when Aston Villa found themselves in turmoil, before the arrival of Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris, Grealish was tipped to be sold in an attempt to balance the financial side of the club. The player himself was convinced that he was off to Tottenham Hotspur.
Aston Villa do not need to sell Jack Grealish to bolster finances this time. That is one area where Villa now have the upper hand on those clubs who may want to throw a treasure chest full of money to gain the services of Aston Villa’s Number Ten. As recently as February 12th, Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris pumped a further £17,000,000 pounds into Aston Villa. The two wealthy owners have now splashed out over 300 million in shares since taking the reigns from former Villa owner Tony Xia in 2018.
The unthinkable scenario for the die-hard supporters of Aston Villa is that a player like Grealish could want to depart the club for greener pastures, a new challenge, or to play for a club who has a better chance of winning silverware. In the very same breath, Wes Edens also needs to lock his other superstar in America down to a long-term contract to keep him in Milwaukee for the long-term. Edens, with the aid of others within the Bucks organization, has given exactly what Giannis has wanted in the past. “The Greek Freak” is currently in the last year of his $100,000,000 contract. He will earn a base salary of $25,842,697. For the more football minded people reading, that’s $496,974.94 per week before performance bonuses.
It goes without saying, but if Grealish demands a high contract to stay with Aston Villa… it will be handed to him without a second thought.
The slippery slope of what happens with Grealish boils down to two questions: Does the player want to leave and what would it take to get them to stay, regardless of what the result of the current season is?
To be relegated immediately after getting promoted would most likely see yet another shake-up of player personnel at Aston Villa. Grealish himself has been doing all he can on the pitch to get into the good graces of England manager Gareth Southgate, but he would have to be head and shoulders above to get his first international involvement while playing 2nd tier of English football. Aston Villa supporters have seen that happen before and it was obvious that it affected Grealish on the pitch.
If Villa were to be damned back to the Championship, that would not make Jack happy at all. This would most likely fuel a move to a club who have a stable footing in the Premier League with no realistic chance of relegation. Therefore, Aston Villa staying in the Premier League virtually multiplies the chances of him wanting to stay at his boyhood club because of the bigger likelihood of playing for England on the international stage.
The other daunting situation that looms over Aston Villa’s heads is filling out the squad with talented players who can compliment Grealish not only presently but for the future as well. Villa is a team who are still trying to find their way together and individually, but there have been moments of brilliance to be witnessed throughout the current campaign. There have been growing pains upon their return to the top flight of English football as well, but that was to be expected.
Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris have proven they are willing to pull out the chequebook to keep Aston Villa in good graces beyond the pitch. But keeping Grealish and his other superstar Antetokounmpo happy and locked down to contracts may be one of Edens’ biggest challenges to date.
The future of Aston Villa would heavily ebb and flow on the choice of Jack Grealish to stay at Aston Villa or move elsewhere. There are no two ways about it.