When NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Miami was silent. Or at least at the Miami Heat’s draft party was. And that didn’t change for over an hour.
One by one, Silver continued to reel off the names, and one after another Heat fans continued to care very little. Sure, there was an occasional boo and an occasional clap, but most of the 1,200 or so fans looked at their phones, drank beer or stared into the void while waiting for their team’s turn.
Then, with Miami’s No. 14 overall pick up next, the crowd was shown on ESPN. Ignition.
Fans stood and erupted into chants of “Let’s go Heat!” while the team mascot, Burnie, ran through the crowd waving his arms. The cheers continued when Silver emerged again to announce Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo as Miami’s selection. Once again, ignition.
White T-shirts rained into the crowd on the east plaza of AmericanAirlines Arena as chants, claps and cheers thundered once again. And while some fans said they were surprised by the pick, most had shatterproof trust in the Heat’s 72-year-old president, Pat Riley.
That much was apparent long before the Heat made its selection.
“You have to,” 18-year-old Daniel Bermudez said of believing in Riley.
“In Pat we trust,” said Donnie Kirby, 54, of Palmetto Bay.
“Riley’s a proven winner,” added Maurice Burrowes, 44, of Pompano Beach. “He’s a ship that’s not gonna sink.”
One of the few Riley detractors was 18-year-old West Kendall resident Eric Avila, who wore a bright yellow banana suit and long-frame sunglasses. His pair of friends wanted him to be identified as “Forrest the banana.”
After a long pause, he said he trusted Riley but only “a little bit.”
“The way free agency went last year, I wasn’t sure about it,” he said. “But we had a pretty good run.”
That run was highlighted by several other Heat fans who attended the team’s draft party as a reason for optimism, no matter who Miami selected. That attitude seemed to be fairly common, with few fans holding rigid opinions about who the team should take.
Burrowes, for example, wanted the Heat to take “that kid out of Indiana,” likely referring to Hoosiers power forward and eventual 23rd pick OG Anunoby.
“I can’t pronounce his name,” he said, “but I love him.”
His 11-year-old son, Dylan Burrowes, meanwhile, was a fan of UCLA forward T.J. Leaf. And Avila, the banana man, also liked Leaf, but his preferred pick was North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith.
“He’s from Fayetteville [North Carolina],” Avila said, “where J. Cole is from. And he’s a great player, excellent performer.”
Since they weren’t all that attached to those picks, the crowd’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive when the Heat took Adebayo. After watching his highlights, Dylan Burrowes even provided some analysis about why he’ll be successful.
“The highlights they’re showing is that he looks like a really good defender,” he said, “and I think he’s gonna be good.”
Plus, as one fan explained, there’s at least one thing aside from his height or skills or potential to like about Adebayo right away.
“His first name is Bam,” said Stalin Silva, 45, of North Miami. “So that’s pretty cool.”
His son, 8-year-old Edgerin Silva, flashed an “Are you kidding me?” look and shrugged when asked for his thoughts.