Heat Two-Way Player May Earn Roster Spot After Historic Nigeria Upset

Miami Heat two-way player Gabe Nnamdi Vincent hugs Heat star Bam Adebayo after Nigeria's upset win over Team USA in a pre-Olympic exhibition.

Getty Miami Heat two-way player Gabe Nnamdi Vincent hugs Heat star Bam Adebayo after Nigeria's upset win over Team USA in a pre-Olympic exhibition.

In 31 games in the G-League last season, Miami Heat two-way guard Gabe Vincent launched an incredible 10.3 3-pointers per game which, in 2020-21, would have ranked him third in the NBA behind only Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. Vincent was good with his shot, too, making 40.4% of his attempts playing for Stockton and Sioux Falls, winning the league’s Most Improved Player award along the way.

While that level of success has yet to translate to the NBA, it’s clear that Vincent (who has appeared in only 59 NBA games in two seasons in Miami) has sniper potential, and his skill was on display in international competition on Saturday night, when Vincent—suiting up for the Nigerian national team—made six of the eight 3-pointers he attempted in scoring 21 points to lead the way to an upset win in an exhibition game over Team USA.

That kind of performance is sure to get attention around the NBA. But the Heat hold Vincent’s future in their hands.

Vincent, who played for Nigeria in the 2019 World Cup in China, downplayed the significance of the win, the first by an African national team over the Americans in any form. Nigeria, which features seven players with NBA ties, including Heat rookies Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala, still has hopes to win a medal in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

“The win was great,” Vincent said. “Like I said earlier, it was everything we expected. We knew we could compete, we knew we could play well against a great team and we showed that tonight. Like (coach Mike Brown) said earlier, they didn’t play their best basketball and neither did we. So we’re just looking forward to what’s next. We understand it’s an exhibition, we understand it’s not our ultimate goal to beat the USA in this exhibition, it’s to medal in Tokyo. Our eyes are still set on that.”

Nnamdi: Why the Name Change for Vincent with Nigeria?

If you’re looking for Vincent during Olympic competition, bear in mind that you won’t see “Vincent” on his jersey. In international play, he goes by his Nigerian name, Nnamdi. He traced that decision back to a trip he took to Nigeria.

He explained:

I use that name when I am representing Nigeria. When I went back home and I introduced myself to somebody as Gabe, they said, ‘What is your name?’ I said, ‘Vincent. Gabe Vincent.’ And they said, ‘No, what is your name?’ And I said, ‘Nnamdi,’ and they said, ‘OK, nice to meet you.’ So, I took that as, that is very much part of my culture and when I do put on that uniform and have Nigeria across my chest, I put that name on my back because that is how people back home recognize me.

It’s different, it is like an alter ego sometimes. You become a different person, but it’s fun. Just to represent the nation, to represent my people and to do it with my name, it’s just another step of it. It’s very important.

Heat Will Control Gabe Vincent’s Free Agency This Summer

As for Vincent’s time in the NBA, the Heat will have the right of first refusal on what happens next with him—should the Heat extend him a qualifying offer ($1.5 million) this summer.

It’s conceivable that he could come back to the Heat on another two-way contract, but at age 25, the UC-Santa Barbara product is probably ready to start looking for a more permanent deal. A strong go-round for Nigeria this summer will bolster his chances of getting a full NBA contract.

Vincent did have some big moments this year, including scoring 24 and 21 points in back-to-back games for the Heat in January, when the team was dealing with a series of COVID-19 problems. He also had 15 points and 10 assists, with six rebounds, in the Heat’s regular-season finale.

If Vincent signs elsewhere, he is a restricted free agent and Miami will have the right to match any offer. His potential as a 3-and-D wing is intriguing and he is, at the very least, a good insurance policy for the Heat, with guard Victor Oladipo, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn all headed into free agency and Tyler Herro finding himself in trade talks.

Before all that, though, Vincent has another goal in mind: a medal in Tokyo.

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