FOX Sports NBA Writer
After a reporter approached Gabe Vincent in the hallway to introduce himself, the Miami Heat starting player did something highly unusual for a player who had just played in an NBA Finals game.
“I’m Gabe Vincent,” he said, holding out his hand.
Vincent had just wrapped up the Heat’s 111-108 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 with a team-high 23 points on 8-for-12 shots from the field, including 4-for-6 from outside the archway, completing the streak balanced at one game per person.
But even though he shone in front of 19,000 people – and millions more watching TV – he still wasn’t sure everyone in the arena knew his name.
For Vincent, the last few years have been a whirlwind one, going from not knowing if he would make the NBA to becoming a star on the league’s biggest stage.
Vincent was undrafted by UC Santa Barbara in 2018. The Sacramento Kings waived him after signing a Schedule 10 contract. He then played in the G League for two years hoping he would catch the attention of someone who would recognize his talent.
When asked if he was worried about his future at the time, he shook his head.
“Not at all, not at all,” Vincent told FOX Sports. “I felt like I did the things I had to do to break into the NBA. And if it didn’t work out, then it didn’t work out. Other options would arise. But I just kept trusting in the process.” . And just kept working on my game.”
In January 2020, the Heat signed Vincent to a two-way deal. Since then, he’s worked his way up from just nine games in the 2019-20 season to a key player for a team just three wins away from an NBA championship.
For 26-year-old Vincent, this is not something that can be taken for granted.
“It feels great to be in the finals and to have those opportunities because a lot of people play seasons — not seasons, careers — in this league and never had the opportunity,” Vincent told FOX Sports. “I’m just happy to be here and just trying to help my team win.”
Last regular season, Vincent came off the bench before being named the team’s starting point guard in February. And this postseason, Miami is relying on his contributions as both Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo are sidelined through injuries.
With that in mind, Vincent played his best basketball to date.
With a 13.5 point average and a 40% shot percentage from long range, he is the third-best scorer of the Heat in the playoffs behind Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
He has 20+ points four times this postseason, highlighted by a 29-point performance in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.
When asked what Vincent has proven this postseason, Adebayo didn’t hesitate.
“Undrafted players can start and be productive in the Finals and it doesn’t mean anything that he’s undrafted,” said Adebayo, who had 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists on Sunday. “He gives boys [hope] who go his way or go this way: “You are not this, you are not that, you are not this.” And he creates a space for himself. I have a feeling a lot of people will know who Gabe Vincent is.
Vincent is in the final year of a two-year, $3.5 million contract and will become a full free agent this summer. He’s expected to draw a lot of interest after his performance this postseason.
When asked for his thoughts on what’s next, he chuckled.
“The beautiful free agency question,” Vincent told FOX Sports. “The Heats were great. You put a lot into me. They have invested in me in a number of ways, with time and effort, and helped me develop my game further. I am very grateful to them for the opportunity I was given initially.” They gave me and for helping me grow. i love miami So we’ll see what happens.”
Adebayo said he first knew Vincent would become the player he has become when he scored a game-best 21 for the Nigerian Olympic team in a friendly in 2021 with 21 points in 18 minutes, beating both Kevin Durant and Kevin Durant also surpassed Damian Lillard in minutes.
“He came with that kind of energy, that kind of greed and that kind of anger,” Adebayo said. “From then on I felt like he was one of us.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made his feelings towards Vincent clear after Game 2.
“We love Nnamdi,” Spoelstra said, referring to the name Vincent wore on the back of his jersey when he represented the Nigeria Olympic team, as a tribute to his Nigerian father and culture. “We really do.”
Spoelstra went on to describe Vincent as “an incredibly successful player” and praised him for adapting his game to the needs of the team.
“He was a gunslinger with two guards,” Spoelstra said. “We wanted to develop him into a combo guard, someone who organizes us, can be annoying and tough on defense and can learn to support and lead a team. I think that’s the hardest thing to do in this league, turning a two into a one.”
Vincent accepted this challenge in the same way he had accepted all previous challenges.
Now everything is paying off.
And though his fame has skyrocketed, Vincent remains as humble as ever.
When asked what winning a championship would mean for him, the man who introduced himself declined to say anything about himself.
“It would mean the world, especially after the season we’ve had for this group,” he told FOX Sports. “I wish nothing more for this group and for our stars who have struggled.”
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She has 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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