Despite having a poster of LeBron James during his younger years, Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent recalls having a casual attitude during his first on-court meeting with the superstar.
Hunter Patterson of The Athletic looked at Vincent’s evolution from undrafted free agent to playoff contributor for the Heat, with Vincent eventually noting just how far his career has advanced.
“One of my first games, we played the Lakers, and I’m in the newspaper guarding LeBron,” Vincent said. “My cousins and friends back home are sending me pictures, and I’m like, ‘It’s whatever. It’s just another game.’ Then I realize I did have a poster of (LeBron) in my room growing up. A few months later, we’re in the Finals playing the [Los Angeles] Lakers in the bubble … like, this is crazy.”
That 2020 finals appearance took place during Vincent’s first season with the Heat. He had been signed in January of that year, with play suspended two months later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 25-year-old Vincent had originally gone undrafted in 2018 after playing collegiately at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Sacramento Kings signed him to a contract in October 2018 but quickly released him.
It would take 15 more months before the Heat signed Vincent to a two-way contract, with the rookie seeing action in just nine regular season games and making one playoff appearance.
Vincent played under another two-way deal with the Heat last year. However, he obviously showed enough promise that the Heat rewarded him with a multiyear deal last August.
During Vincent’s formative years, he undoubtedly followed James’ exploits during his four seasons as a member of the Heat. In all four of James’ seasons with the team from 2010 to 2014, he led them to an Eastern Conference title and twice helped the team capture an NBA title.
Now that Vincent is a professional basketball player, he doesn’t have the luxury of remaining in awe of James. Instead, Vincent is focused on trying to help the Heat win the franchise’s fourth NBA title.
Entering Friday night’s playoff matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, the Heat have a 2-0 edge in the series. They can deal their opponents a severe blow if they win one of the next two games in Atlanta.
If the Heat end up winning the 2022 NBA Finals, Vincent would earn his first NBA championship ring. That would still place him three behind James, but with his career on the upswing, it would make for a good starting point.