Miami Heat president Pat Riley believes that Bam Adebayo is the next face of the franchise, and he recently compared him to Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem.
Riley hopes that Adebayo will be with the Heat for the remainder of his NBA career.
“It’s been a blessing to have him,” Riley told the Miami Herald. “I go back to [Alonzo Mourning] and Zo was a franchise face and then Dwyane along with Udonis, and now I look at Bam the same way because of longevity. I see Bam here, I hope, for his whole career.”
That’s some extremely high praise, as Haslem, Wade and Mourning have all been a part of championship teams in Miami.
Riley and the Heat drafted Adebayo with the No. 14 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and he has become one of the game’s best big men. This season, Adebayo was named to his second All-Star team, and he’s already made three All-Defensive teams in his NBA career.
The 2022-23 campaign has been arguably the best of Adebayo’s career. He’s averaging a career-high 21.6 points per game to go along with 10.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per night.
With Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Victor Oladipo, Kyle Lowry and others dealing with injuries this season, Adebayo has been the steadying presence that Miami has needed to stay in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat are the No. 7 seed in the East entering the All-Star break.
Miami has had some terrific leaders in the franchise’s history, with Wade easily taking the top spot.
Wade had an amazing NBA career, winning three NBA titles with the Heat. He averaged 22.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game while shooting 48.0 percent from the field, winning a scoring title in the 2008-09 season and making eight All-NBA teams.
Mourning, Haslem and Wade were all a part of the Heat team that won the NBA Finals in the 2005-06 season. Haslem, who has been with Miami since the 2003-04 campaign, has remained a key leader and voice in the locker room even though his prime playing days are behind him.
Adebayo, the anchor of Miami’s elite defense, is starting to come into a leadership role in his own right, and it appears that Riley wants him to stay in Miami as long as possible.
The Heat signed Adebayo to an extension that will keep him in Miami through the 2025-26 season. The franchise won’t have to worry about negotiating a new deal for a few more seasons, but it’s hard to see Riley not giving Adebayo whatever he wants to continue leading the franchise.