National Basketball Association
Miami wants Bam Adebayo to shoot a lot. When he does, the Heat usually win
National Basketball Association

Miami wants Bam Adebayo to shoot a lot. When he does, the Heat usually win

Updated May. 8, 2023 11:39 p.m. ET

Bam Adebayo is determined to earn as much money as possible during his playing career to take care of his family. And even though he's always been a defense-first player, he knows that in the NBA, the biggest checks go to scorers.

Luckily for him, the Miami Heat also wants its defensive ace to score – a lot.

Team president Pat Riley told his big man last summer to start shooting at least 15 shots a game.

"This year, I went into the [season] saying I'm going to average this and shoot this and I'm living by that," Adebayo told FOX Sports. "It has helped the team. It's helped me. And it's helped us win games."


When Adebayo scored 25 or more during the regular season this year, the Heat were 12-4. He has increased his scoring average and field-goal attempts every season of his career, to reach 20.4 points on 14.9 attempts per game this year.

This postseason, Adebayo is averaging 14.1 attempts per game and helped Miami shock the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Then Monday night, his 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting and 13 rebounds led his team to a commanding 3-1 series lead over the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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Adebayo's play in Game 3 is a perfect example of the way he changes the game for his team. He held Knicks All-Star Julius Randle to just 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting, while finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds in a 105-86 win.

"He was all over the place, both ends of the court," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after the game. "The stat-line probably doesn't do it any justice of the impact."

Adebayo's growth in the NBA has been exponential.

Adebayo went from being a grinder into a perennial Defensive Player of the Year contender (he is the only player in the NBA to record at least one first-place vote for that award every year for the past four years). From a blue-collar player into a two-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist. From an unproven entity to signing a five-year contract worth up to $195 million. And now he's focused on taking his game to the next level — becoming an offensive weapon.

When the Heat selected him 14th overall in the 2017 draft out of Kentucky, the organization knew it was getting someone with raw talent and incredible athleticism.

But everyone was blown away by how hard he worked. During his rookie season, Spoelstra said they nicknamed Adebayo "no ceiling" because they quickly realized his potential was limitless due to his work ethic.

Adebayo would work out with the bigs. Then he'd work out with the guards. Then the wings. He was indefatigable.

He went from averaging 6.9 points his rookie season to 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 2018-19, to 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists the following season. 

In 2020, his value skyrocketed. He was named an All-Star, helped the Heat reach the NBA Finals in the bubble, made his first of three consecutive All-Defensive Teams – then earned a max rookie contract extension that November.

For Adebayo, who was raised in a trailer by a single mother, Marilyn Blount, his goal has always been to give her the best life possible. Blount worked long hours as a cashier at the Acre Station Meat Farm in Pinetown, N.C., to support them.

"First thing I got her was her house," Adebayo said of signing his extension. "My mom has never had a house of her own."

Even though Adebayo accomplished his dream of dramatically changing his mother's circumstances, he continues to work as hard as ever. Entering this season, the challenge for Adebayo was clear: He needed to become an even bigger offensive threat.

During the 2022 Eastern Conference finals against Boston, there were two games when Adebayo only scored six points and attempted six shots. Then there was Game 3, when he finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals.

That's what led to Riley's challenge to him to shoot more.

Over the summer, Adebayo worked out three times a day, with his first workout beginning at 5:30 a.m. He'd shoot over 500 shots.

"The reason why he started his workouts so early in the morning was so he could spend time with his mom in the afternoons," his trainer Ronnie Taylor said. "At 2:30, he typically goes to his mom's and hangs out with her."

For Taylor, the goal was to help a hard-nosed defender who punched his ticket to the NBA with his energy and grit become offensive-minded. Or, in his words, he wanted Adebayo to become more "selfish." If that happens, he believes Adebayo could be unstoppable.

"He's quicker than most guys who have to guard him," Taylor said of the 6-foot-9, 255-pound center. "They're either too slow or too small."

He was again named an All-Star in February and finished in the top-five in voting for Defensive Player of the Year for the fourth year in a row.

Adebayo, who shot 54 percent from the field this season, loved being encouraged to shoot more – the green light was liberating after getting the red light while he was at Kentucky from 2016-17.

"When you look at my stats, analytically, I'm shooting a high percentage," Adebayo said. "You can't tell me not to shoot that shot. If you see somebody make 1,000 middies [midrange shots] every day and they get in the game and make 10 of them, you're not going to tell them, 'Stop shooting.' It's one of those things where the defense has to guard you."

Still, being aggressive on the offensive end doesn't necessarily come naturally to him.

In January, while sitting by a visitor locker at Arena, he recoiled when a reporter pointed out that the Heat were 7-0 when he scored 28 or more points in a game. He didn't want to be jinxed. The reporter laughed, saying that they didn't believe in that stuff.

"Yeah, but I do," Adebayo said.

Adebayo knows that the more of an offensive threat he becomes, the easier he'll make things for superstar teammate Jimmy Butler – and the more dangerous his team becomes.

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But while he remains the heart of the team's defense, he sometimes struggles to be consistent on the other end. In this year's playoffs, he's down to 14.1 field-goal attempts per game (play-in tournament included), even though Tyler Herro suffered a broken hand in Game 1 against the Bucks.

In a Game 2 loss to the Knicks, which Butler missed because of a sprained right ankle, Adebayo took only 10 shots, finishing with just 15 points. On a night when his team needed him to be the superstar, he was the fourth-leading scorer.

"I played terrible," Adebayo told reporters. "I put this one on me."

For Adebayo, it's a learning curve. The one thing that Heat have learned about him is he can accomplish anything he desires because of the work he puts in.

"You stack that year after year after year, he's continuing to just improve massively, major jumps," Spoelstra said. "People really overestimate what you can accomplish in a day. And they severely underestimate what you can accomplish in a matter of weeks, months or years. Bam is the epitome of that kind of consistent delayed gratification and improvement."

As for the 25-year-old Adebayo, he's just now entering his prime. And his drive is as strong as ever.

"He wants to not just be a good player in the NBA," Taylor said. "He wants to be great."

As his team looks to make another deep playoff run, Adebayo is going to try to be a motor on both ends of the court.

After all, his motivation is always in front of him. His mother, who watches every one of his games, is why he has transformed himself into a two-way star.

"I intended coming into the league [on] making a lot less money than I'm making now," Adebayo said. "You get in it and then you realize, 'No, I can make so much more in the league.' That was the motivation.

"Obviously, I want to take care of my mom to the best of my ability."

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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