‘Be Like D-Wade’: Heat Star Describes Path to Leadership Role

Bam Adebayo

Getty Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo has been making it a point to be a more vocal leader on the court.

When Bam Adebayo stole Erik Spoelstra’s chair during a timeout, everyone knew the 6-foot-9 big man meant business. He has actively been working on being more vocal on the court and this may have been his cathartic moment. Watch out.

Adebayo wants to be mentioned with the great leaders in Miami Heat history. Remember, he played alongside future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade for two seasons and counts veteran reserve Udonis Haslem as a mentor. With Jimmy Butler out for his fourth straight game due to health and safety protocols, Adebayo took it upon himself to rally the troops by his example and with his words.

“That’s a role I’m growing into,” Adebayo said, “and UD [Haslem] and Spo [Spoelstra] are pushing me to be that vocal point of the team.”

He hit a clutch free throw in the closing seconds after going up high to swat Jerami Grant on a nasty block with 31 ticks left. He scored 28 points and grabbed 11 boards in Monday night’s 113-107 win.

“Being a leader is not easy at all but I’ve always been one of those kids who tried to lead by example,” Adebayo told reporters after the game. “Now I got to transition to leading by my voice and by example. I’m enjoying the process and one of these days I can look back and you never know, I might be like a D-Wade where he can come back and speak to the team, or I may be a UD [Haslem] … that’s the role they want me to be in, I look forward to being a leader, continuing to being a vocal leader.”

Those are lofty names to put yourself in the same conversation with but the confident 23-year-old is more serious than a bouncer at LIV. Adebayo openly challenged teammates for not living up to the “Miami Heat culture” after three straight losses. His head coach loved it.

“He was angry. He was frustrated after our last game and that is 1,000-percent what you want from your best players,” Spoelstra said. “What you want them to embody, you know that type of competitive spirit, because when it matters that deeply, then that becomes important to everybody else.”

It’s not lip service. Adebayo wants to form a “two-headed monster” of leadership with Butler when he comes back.

“When Jimmy comes back, looking at a two-headed monster, me and Jimmy,” Adebayo said. “It’s going to be great.”

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Adebayo Improving Mid-Range Jumper, Free Throws

The first-round pick (14th overall) from 2017 keeps finding new ways to reinvent himself and his ever-expanding game. He’s developed a mid-range jumper while working tirelessly at the free-throw line. He’s shooting 85.1% from the charity stripe through 10 games.

Yes, it’s a small sample size but it’s a marked jump from 69.1% last year. And Adebayo’s dedication was evident on Monday night as he got to the free-throw line 11 times and hit 10 of them. He also went 9-of-15 from the field.

“Everybody’s going to want to point to that and I don’t want to point to that,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo’s mid-range jumper. “That’s a new weapon that he’s got, that’s going to be critical particularly at the end of possessions but that’s not where we’re looking first or second option. But, he is working diligently to add more things to his game and his ability to make free throws. It’s so big, it’s so important because the ball’s in his hands all the time.”

Adebayo admitted to focusing on his mid-range jumper at practice during the week. He’s been spending extra time in the gym and shooting 10 free throws at a time in between conditioning drills. If he can’t knock all 10 shots down, then he does more wind sprints.

“If I can’t make 10 in a row by the third cycle, I’m running again,” he said.

Living the ‘Miami Heat Culture’ Every Day

Adebayo’s comments about getting away from the “Miami Heat culture” had taken on a life of their own in recent days. Some saw it as the All-Star center calling out lazy teammates, but he was using it more as a motivational tool to pick the guys up. This is a team fresh off an NBA Finals runner-up appearance with a stated goal of getting back there and winning it.

Miami used those harsh words as a rallying cry on Monday after a slow start. The Heat were down 12 points heading into the second quarter, then rode a spark from the second unit. Kendrick Nunn was a revelation and finished with 18 points in 34 minutes.

“It felt great getting that win,” Adebayo said. “I believe in my teammates, just like we’re brothers, so I knew we didn’t play to our standards and we can address that. We brothers, we in the locker room together, you know, we can talk personal so, as you can see, this is our standard and we got to uphold our standard.”

Spoelstra credited Nunn and reserve forward Moe Harkless who logged 30 valuable minutes off the bench for spearheading the comeback.

“Detroit jumped on us in the first quarter and probably everybody’s thinking, ‘here we go again’ but our guys really responded,” the head coach said. “Our second unit came in and sparked us, got us back in the game, gave us great life and energy. K Nunn and Mo really spearheaded that and then we found a way to grind it out in the second half. I think that was important for us to get through those moments.”


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