Rather, it came courtesy of Harvard Business School. Just don’t call it an Elberse Bomb.
“It’s not uncommon for us to get people to say things that they haven’t said anywhere else because these are in-depth interviews,” Anita Elberse, an HBS professor of business administration, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Elberse, who has become well known for her celebrity–filled classes in Cambridge, recently conducted a case study on how the Milwaukee Bucks and their transcendent superstar Giannis Antetotkounmpo went from having the league’s worst record in 2013-2014 to its best record last season — and whether the small-market team can retain the reigning NBA MVP in a league where high-profile players are increasingly empowered to switch teams.
The 13-page study, which included interviews with Bucks executives and players, hasn’t yet been publicly released, according Elberse’s office. However, she gave the Bucks’ hometown newspaper a preview Wednesday, revealing that Antetokounmpo — who has consistently declared his love and loyalty to Milwaukee during his six NBA seasons — had made perhaps his strongest indication to-date that his future in Wisconsin may be less than certain.
“I want the Bucks to build a winning culture,” the 24-year-old told Elberse and Melcolm Ruffin, an HBS student and study co-author, during an interview last spring.
“So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there’s no other place I want to be,” he added. “But if we’re underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult.”
Those words, dropped just a day before the Bucks’ season opener Thursday night, hit the always-churning NBA rumor mill like a wave Wednesday. Antetokounmpo’s comments were picked up by basketball blog after blog after blog after blog and raised the eyebrows of fans of rival teams on social media.
The Bucks have indicated that they will offer Antetokounmpo a “supermax” contract extension next offseason worth more than $250 million. Asked about his star’s remarks, Bucks co-owner Jamie Dinan told the Journal Sentinel that the study’s authors were “trying to create conflict in the case, because it’s designed to be a teaching case.”
“There’s no case here if he’s like, ‘I’m a hundred percent signing next year,'” Dinan said. “I wasn’t in the room when he said it, so I don’t know if they goaded him a little bit to kind of get some conflict.”
Elberse’s office declined to answer specific questions about the study or Dinan’s remarks. An assistant to the professor told Boston.com that “Elberse believes the case [which is still not public] speaks for itself.”
“I was obviously happy to see [Antetokounmpo] being open,” Elberse told the Journal Sentinel.
Last month, Antetokounmpo told reporters that he planned to avoid talking about his contractual future as the Bucks look to contend for an NBA title.
“I feel like if you have a great team, and our goal is to win a championship and be the last team standing and get better each day, I think it’s disrespectful towards my teammates talking about my free agency and what I’m going through,” he said. “So when the time is right, we’re all gonna talk about it. I don’t think the time is right.”