One of the biggest criticisms of Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo throughout the postseason was his lack of aggression. However, after the Heat failed to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals following a heartbreaking 100-96 Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics, Adebayo literally let his emotions rip.
Adebayo did his best to keep the Heat’s championship hopes alive in Game 7, putting up 25 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. But aside from Heat star Jimmy Butler, who put up 35 points, Miami’s bench only mustered a total of 13 points.
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Coming within just one game from reaching the NBA Finals appeared to be suffocating for Adebayo. As he walked toward the locker room following the Heat’s defeat at the FTX Arena on May 29, he tore off his jersey — right down the front.
A video of Adebayo’s quiet moment of rage quickly went viral and has racked up millions of views. Buzzer reporter Jasmine Watkins retweeted the clip and wrote, “Not enough people are talking about Bam Adebayo ripping off his jersey like it had buttons.”
Viewers couldn’t get over the sheer strength it takes to tear up an NBA jersey as Adebayo did with such ease, and filled Twitter with their reactions.
Adebayo Remains a Conundrum for NBA Analysts
Adebayo finished the postseason averaging 14.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 0.7 blocks. During the regular season, the former No. 14 overall pick from the 2017 NBA Draft averaged 19.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks.
Despite a highly uneven postseason, the ceiling for the 24-year-old All-Star remains high. Sun Senintel’s Ira Winderman gave Adebayo an A- grade for his playoff performance while also commenting on why there’s such discrepancy over the versatile defender’s talent.
While Adebayo is “as deft in switches or one-on-one challenges,” Winderman wrote, it remains unknown if the man who signed a $163-million max contract in 2020, can deliver a more reliable offensive game. “It is what separates Adebayo from the next level. It is almost a riddle at this point, how there can be so much passion, aggression, decisiveness on one end of the court and yet extended passivity on the other.”
CBS Sports reporter Michael Kaskey-Blomain called Adebayo “a non-factor” during the Heat’s first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, noting his “lack of aggression,” which is not something you want to hear about a team’s max player.
During the Eastern Conference Finals, ESPN analyst Jay Williams called out the Kentucky alum while appearing The KJM Show: “Bam Adebayo, you’re an All-Star. Where are you? What are we doing? This game last night, you took six shots. The game before that, you took four shots. You need your other All-Star to come to the damn party and to be aggressive. Now, Erik Spoelstra needs to design some plays to get him the ball, but he needs to demand the ball.”
Former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy also gave his reasoning as to why the 6-foot-9 All-Star was failing to meet expectations on The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz on May 26.
“I don’t think he’s afraid,” Van Gundy said of Adebayo. “I think it’s just, he’s small, and getting shots up over the top of guys is tough. He’s an interesting guy in today’s game because he does a lot of things really well. He handles, he passes, he can guard. But he’s a small center who can’t stretch you out on the floor.”
Coach Spo, Butler & Udonis Haslem Have Adebayo’s Back
Heat’s head coach Erik Spolestra brushed over the criticism centered around Adebayo following their Game 7 loss. “I liked his assertiveness,” Spoelstra said. “We needed it. It was tough to generate good, clean looks. I thought Bam’s assertiveness was vital.”
“It was really important for us to put some pressure on the rim and create some opportunities out of nothing, not out of a play call but just driving and making some plays. That’s definitely something he’ll be able to build on. He has reinvented himself every offseason. Every year in the last three or four years, he should have been considered most improved player.”
Team captain Udonis Haslem hates seeing Adebayo criticized for his offensive game. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that he can’t score. That’s not true at all,” Haslem said, per Miami Herald‘s Anthony Chiang.
“It’s not that he can’t score. He wears a lot of responsibilities. He’s got to get our shooters involved, he’s got to get other guys involved and he’s got to think about scoring. For him, he just carries a bigger burden than most guys at his position.”
As for Butler, he has no doubt Adebayo will reach his potential. “What he’s capable of when he has the opportunity to be that guy. I’ve said it all year long, he’s the engine that makes us run on both ends of the floor. He does so many things well.”
“I’m very grateful to be able to play with an individual like him, along with so many other people on the roster. I think the more comfortable that Bam gets, that he knows that he’s a star in this league, you can’t put a cap and a ceiling on his talent and his abilities. As long as he’s comfortable, he’s going to be hell whenever he’s out there on the floor.”
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