The evolution of Bam Adebayo into a modern NBA big man

By Jake Meister
Medill Reports

Former Chicago Bulls forward Will Perdue and 2020 NBA All-Star Bam Adebayo share roots in Kentucky.

When he’s not working as a studio analyst for the Bulls at NBC Sports Chicago, the three-time NBA champion heads down to his home in Louisville. During Adebayo’s lone collegiate season with the Kentucky Wildcats, Perdue got the opportunity to watch the Newark native first-hand many times.

“He was pretty raw coming out of Kentucky,” Perdue said.

While leading drills with Chicago Public Schools students at the fifth Jr. NBA Day, the duo reconnected and talked about Adebayo’s development into becoming a key contributor for the 35-19 Miami Heat.

“Miami runs their offense through him a lot,” Perdue said. “He gets a lot of touches, but he also understands what his role is.”

Perdue said the Newark native has transformed his style of play thanks to the supportive system built by head coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff.

Adebayo takes questions from reporters at the 2020 NBA All-Star Media Day. (Jake Meister/MEDILL)

Adebayo credited his success within the Heat’s scheme based off the constant work and energy put in each day from his teammates in addition to his own development as a player.

“I feel like if you want to get working, you have got to have somebody to put in the time with,” ¬†Adebayo said.

Having a grasp on his responsibilities within the Heat’s system on both ends of the court is what has led Adebayo to the All-Star Game this season. The Kentucky product is eighth in the league in double-doubles (31), ahead of other notable names such as James Harden and Ben Simmons. He also leads the Heat in minutes per game (34.5), slightly ahead of teammate and fellow All-Star Jimmy Butler.

“He has learned how to play the game in a team setting and do whatever is required,” Perdue said. “And that’s difficult. He’s made a sacrifice to put the team first.”

Despite being listed at 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, Adebayo has built his skills around his athleticism and explosiveness at the rim. It is what has propelled him to be among the top-15 players in field goal percentage this season.

While a majority of his production can be found close to the basket, Adebayo has been steadily improving his offensive skills outside the paint too.

“He’s got his own little flash but at the same time he’s got a touch of an old school [player],” Perdue said. “But instead of them [Miami] running the offense through him in the post they run it through the high post, at the elbow [and the] top of the key. And that’s how the game has evolved.”

Adebayo showcased the state of his game with a surprise victory in the Skills Challenge Saturday night.

While his rapid ascension into becoming a headline player in the Eastern Conference can be credited to the work Adebayo has put in with his teammates and Spoelstra, the Newark native said former Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard played the most pivotal role in his development. Prior to becoming the head coach at the University of Michigan, Howard guided the Kentucky product through his first two years in the league.

“He’s [Howard] been through the thick and thin, the struggles and the successes with me,” Adebayo said.

The Kentucky product said he wouldn’t fully realize he was a part of All-Star Weekend until late Sunday night. However, with the Heat fully in the conversation to make a run in the Eastern Conference, Adebayo will need to be ready to roll come next Thursday when Miami visits to the Atlanta Hawks.

“Taking care of my body is a big emphasis for me and just trying to get through the season to play all 82 [games],” Adebayo said.

Photo at top: Adebayo is interviewed by a Jr. NBA reporter at the fifth Jr. NBA day. (Jake Meister/MEDILL)