Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo denied saying that he might consider leaving the team if they underperform after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel passed along a Harvard Business School case study with a quote attributed to Antetokounmpo that quickly made waves around the NBA world.
"I want the Bucks to build a winning culture," Antetokounmpo reportedly said in that case study. "So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there's no other place I want to be. But if we're underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult."
But on Thursday, the Greek Freak was adamant about never using those words, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic:
"As I've said there's going to be a lot of stories that are going to come out. I think everybody knows how sensitive this timing is. They're going to come out with a bunch of stories and all that. My girlfriend Mariah asked me yesterday. She said, 'Did you actually say this?' I said, 'If you're going to read the last quote, I've never used those words in my life.'"
Antetokounmpo only vaguely specified what was misquoted in the case study:
"I'm not going to get into that. As I said, the last—what is it called—quote, paragraph, it's words that I didn't use. Underperforming or whether or deciding, all those words. I've never used those words in all my life. As I said, I'm not going to talk about it. There can be stories coming out. I said this, I said that. I said this. But I'm not going to get into it at all."
Whether Antetokounmpo wants to talk about his future free agency or not, it's an uncertainty that hangs over the Bucks. He's set to hit free agency after the 2020-21 season and will be eligible to sign a five-year, $253.8 million contract extension next summer.
If Antetokounmpo leaves Milwaukee, it would be devastating for the franchise. MVPs don't grow on trees, and players like the 24-year-old Greek Freak—who averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals last season, dominating in every facet of the game except for his mediocre shooting from beyond the arc (25.6 percent)—are particularly rare.
As such, the Bucks are operating under a two-year window to win a title. Anything less risks the Greek Freak bolting in free agency, when a number of franchises will likely have cap space free in the event he decides to leave Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo, fairly, doesn't want to discuss his future two years out from possible free agency, saying it's disrespectful to his teammates:
"I'm not going to talk about it. I'm just going to focus on this season. As I've said in the past, it's disrespectful, man. We're facing the Houston Rockets, a championship-level team tonight. We're a championship-level team. We have a goal, which is to play until the end. …
"I'm not going to distract my teammates. The attention is not going to be on me. The attention is going to be on this team and what we gotta do to win."
Like it or not, the attention will always be on the Greek Freak. When you're the reigning MVP and lead one of the most talented rosters in the NBA, the spotlight follows you. In this case, it's shining most brightly on his future in Milwaukee.