The Miami Heat have been the biggest surprise of the NBA playoffs. One reason they find themselves in the NBA Finals and three wins away from a world championship is the play of Gabe Vincent.
After sneaking in as the No. 8 seed, the Heat knocked off the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round (4-1), dispatched the fifth-seeded New York Knicks next (4-2), then won in seven games over the defending Eastern Conference-champion Boston Celtics to reach the Finals.
Vincent, who went undrafted in 2018 out of the University of California-Santa Barbara and has bounced between the NBA and the G League during his time in pro basketball, has started every game for the Heat in the playoffs. He’s gotten the nod over six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry and is the team’s third-leading scorer at nearly 14 points per game.
His 23 points in Game 2 led the way for the Heat and propelled them to a 111-108 win over the Denver Nuggets, the Western Conference’s top seed, that tied the best-of-seven series at 1-1. It’s the latest development in what has been a remarkable story for Vincent, who publicly cites his faith in God as a driving force for him.
Gabe was knocking down shots all game. Never let up. pic.twitter.com/RWP1b8fygK
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 5, 2023
“I believe in God, and I give thanks to Him daily,” Vincent said in a 2021 interview with lifestyle publication Contemporary Approaches. “My grandfather was a pastor in Nigeria, so faith runs deep in my family. It helps to set the foundation and make you have some reference to accountability. It plays a huge part in my life and success.”
Vincent also makes his faith know on his social media channels, writing, “I’m on a mission and God is my guide” in his Instagram bio.
He began his professional career with the Sacramento Kings’ G League Stockton Kings, playing in the city where he attended high school. The Heat acquired Vincent’s rights by signing him to a two-way contract on Jan. 8, 2020, and later that year he was named the 2019-20 G League Most Improved Player.
The son of a Nigerian father, he also represented the African country in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, played in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. In the lead up to the Olympics in July 2021, Vincent scored 21 points to lead Nigeria to a 90-87 exhibition win over eventual gold-medal winner United States.
The win was not only special for Vincent, his father and the country of Nigeria, but it proved to Vincent and others that he could play at the highest level and handle himself against the best players in the world.
Vincent recently told Andscape that “belief and persistence” were the keys to his success and he was focused on “the big picture.” He’s earned the respect and praise of Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, who has been impressed with Vincent’s ability to go from a volume-focused shooting guard to a point guard.
“He openly just embraced that,” Spoelstra told Andscape. “Then he struggled at times with that because you’re trying to reinvent yourself. Instead of saying, ‘This is too tough, let me be me,’ he’s really grown the last three years. He’s just an incredible winning player.”
Vincent and the Heat dropped Game 3 on Wednesday, 109-94, and will look to even the series at home on Friday.
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