Bam Adebayo openly chasing individual accolades -- and that's exactly what the Heat need

If Bam Adebayo reaches his individual goals, the Miami Heat will be better for it.
Miami Heat v Utah Jazz
Miami Heat v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

Heat Culture can be so obsessively team-oriented that, at times, it seems like they don’t even realize individual stats are recorded on a box score. And while the team-first attitude is a key part of what has made the Miami Heat among the most successful organizations in the NBA this century, it can be refreshing when a star player acknowledges his individual goals.

This is what Bam Adebayo has done, and continues to do this season. While increasing his individual stats and earning his first Defensive Player of the Year award are still goals, he’s also aiming higher: All-NBA. 

Bam Adebayo told ESPN that he hopes to make the All-NBA team this season, for various reasons.

Of course, if Adebayo makes All-NBA (and plays in 65 games) he can qualify for a supermax contract extension worth up to $245 million next summer. While he acknowledges that the money is a factor, the All-NBA distinction also comes with something else – respect.

"You can't run from those type of numbers," Adebayo told ESPN this week. "The money we make now is ridiculous. Coming from the background where I come from, where me and my mom made it out of a single-wide trailer in a rural area. You think about how many lives you can change. So it does play a part, it does matter, but that's not the only reason why I'm chasing it.

"It's not mainly for the money," he continued. "It's mainly because [of] the respect of your peers and obviously the respect of everybody else."

Adebayo, now in his seventh NBA season, has been named an All-Star twice and to the All-Defensive second team four times. He’s respected as a versatile defender and capable scorer across the league, but he wants more. 

Adebayo seeks to be in the same conversation as Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. He wants opposing scouting reports to include things like, just hope he misses, which was Miami’s boiled-down strategy against Jokic in the 2023 Finals.

In that ESPN piece – one you should read here – Adebayo also tells Brian Windhorst that he has set statistical goals for himself: 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and 1.4 blocks. 

"I'm looking at my stat line and being like, 'How can I be better?'" Adebayo said.

It's almost jarring to hear a Heat player talk about his own stats like that. But that's good! In fact, the Heat are better off with Adebayo chasing those numbers.

Over the last three seasons, when Adebayo scores at least 23 points in a game, the Heat win 61.4% of their games -- a 50-win pace. And with fellow leading scorers Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro missing time with injuries this season, the Heat are relying on Adebayo on offense even more.

He's off to a strong start, averaging 22 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block in 34.1 minutes ahead of Wednesday night’s matchup in Los Angeles against the Lakers. And that’s while dealing with a lingering hip injury that ultimately sidelined him for 10 total games. To qualify for All-NBA, players must play in 65 games, meaning Adebayo can only miss seven more this regular season.

That's another number Adebayo knows: “You’re definitely aware of that because that’s generational wealth at the end of the day,” Adebayo told the Miami Herald. “But we know the number, we know what it is and I know I’ve already missed 10 games. I got seven left. But you handle those seven with caution.”

Not everyone can get away with so blatantly chasing numbers and contracts, but Adebayo has earned it. Nobody questions his work ethic or impact on winning. He’s made changes to how he maintains his body with an eye on being healthy for the postseason, when the Heat need him most. 

If Adebayo reaches his individual goals, his team will be better for it.