The Miami Heat just advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, powered by the 23-point, three-steal Game 5 performance from…Victor Oladipo.
Remember him? The talented two-way guard who became a two-time NBA All-Star (2018, 2019) as a member of the Indiana Pacers. The 2017-18 season’s Most Improved Player Award winner. The player who famously pulled off the Black Panther dunk as the late Chadwick Boseman sat courtside at the 2018 Slam Dunk Contest.
Yes, that Victor Oladipo.
He looked very much like that late 2010s version of himself in Miami’s Tuesday-night win that sent Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks home and propelled the banged-up Heat to the second round.
The vintage performance was just one of the great moments that Oladipo had on Tuesday. The other was his emotional postgame interview that followed the win.
Here’s the backstory for those unfamiliar: that aforementioned, late 2010s version of Oladipo was stopped in his tracks right smack in the middle of his basketball peak — a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his right knee back in 2019, being the reason. And the road to redemption has perhaps been more excruciating than the initial injury itself.
Oladipo returned to the court as a Pacer during the 2019-20 season but was shipped to Houston the following year after playing the first nine games with Indiana. After just 20 games with the Rockets, he was traded to Miami, where he played four games during the 2020-21 season before re-injuring that same knee.
Finally, in Miami’s 66th game of the 2021-22 season, a fully healed, fully healthy Victor Oladipo made his season debut. A month later, he dropped 40 points in the regular-season finale.
There have been no setbacks. No hiccups. No re-injuries. It’s just been a matter of Oladipo finding his spot amongst this talented and incredibly deep Miami Heat roster.
Whether his Game 5 performance cemented himself a spot in Miami’s playoff rotation going forward is to be determined. But he’s proven himself worthy, reliable and has the respect of his teammates.