Heat guard Wayne Ellington appreciated every Christmas gift he got as a kid, but there’s one that stood out above all others.
“I loved those little toy race car tracks I would get,” said Ellington, who entered Saturday’s game against the Pelicans tied with Paul George for sixth in the league in three-pointers made with 88 after knocking down a career-high eight threes in a win over Dallas on Friday. “The little cars that would fly around the track, I would spend some good time with my Dad playing with it.”
Ellington, 30, is celebrating his first Christmas as a father this year by getting his nine-month old son, Wayne Ellington III, a few toys and by spending as much quality time with him as he can. For Ellington, his greatest pain has taught him the biggest gift in life is being able to spend special moments with those you love – like all the times he remembers talking basketball with his father.
It’s why after games or long road trips, Ellington pays no attention to the clock when he gets home. Even if it is the middle of the night, he says, there’s always time to give his son some love.
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“After games his mom gets mad at me when I wake him up,” Ellington said through a grin Wednesday in Boston after shootaround. “It’s late when we get home from games, but since he wakes up anyways to eat I figure why not. His eyes get wide open when he sees me.”
Last month marked the three year anniversary Ellington lost his biggest fan. His 57-year-old father, who coached him at the YMCA and sent him the same text message ‘Go To Work’ before every NBA game, was shot and killed back home in Philadelphia while Ellington was in the middle of playing a game for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Naturally, the holidays always “bring back a lot of memories” of his father, Ellington said. This Christmas is no different.
“Like I say, he’s always with me and always with us,” Ellington said of his Dad. “I try and keep him alive. Losing him does play a huge role in my relationship with my son and how I am with him. It’s why I gave him the name Wayne – to make sure he would carry that on. Just that father-son bond, there’s nothing like that.”
Ellington said one way he keeps his father’s memory fresh is by posting special messages to him on his shoes prior to games. He does the same for his son. “I always usually put their initials on my shoes,” Ellington said. “The rest of it is private.”
After averaging a career-high 10.5 points per game last season, Ellington is averaging 9.8 this season. But he’s making threes at a much higher clip, though, shooting 43.1 percent.
Like those toy cars he used to race on his toy track, he’s become a wizard and zipping around defenses and springing himself open to launch threes.
“It means a lot to me,” Ellington said of ranking in the top 15 in three-pointers made this season. “The work that I've put in, it’s paying off. But I’m not satisfied man. I’m still grinding, still at it. I see bigger than top 15.”
One thing Ellington said he would love to do this year is get invited to participate in the NBA’s three-point contest. The Heat, averaging the sixth-most threes in the league at 31.6 per game, probably couldn’t have a better representative in the contest.
“I’ve never been, but if the opportunity presents itself,” Ellington said. “I’d love to.”
Heat forward Josh Richardson said he’s planning to send himself the same Christmas gift he gave himself last year and the year before.
“I send myself an edible arrangement,” Richardson said. “I send myself little notes and everything. My mom actually sent me one my rookie year. I bought myself one my rookie year too. I just had two that year.”
What was Richardson’s favorite Christmas gift as a child?
“My first Nintendo 64,” Richardson said. “I was like six years old. I was playing NFL Blitz forever. I played my Dad like 10 times the first day. Me and my older sister would play all the time. She would pick the same team I would pick and it would drive me crazy. That was like my favorite game.”
▪ Rookie Bam Adebayo said he’s got a good Christmas gift in mind for his mother, but wouldn’t share any secrets.
“I consider every day a Christmas day,” said Adebayo, who was raised by his mother in a modest home in North Carolina. “Shoot, I wake up and I get to go buy me something to eat. I just think about it as every day is Christmas because you never know when your time is ending.”
Adebayo, 20, said his favorite gift as a kid was a trampoline.
“I was like in fifth grade, I think,” he said. “I loved that trampoline until I was like in ninth grade, until the little spring started popping off. Then I had to give it away. Man, I was so sick.”