The Miami Heat is a team that isn’t known much for relying on the draft when trying to land their players. Pat Riley has always been a guy who prefers to build his team through trades or through free agency. The most notable Miami Heat draft picks in recent memory are Justise Winslow, Michael Beasley and of course Dwyane Wade. We’re all familiar with the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” We’re also familiar with the saying “there’s an exception to every rule.” The former stands out more because Pat Riley is indeed literally old. 75 to be exact.
There have been talks among South Florida natives that the game has passed him by and that he doesn’t know good talent anymore. With the recent surprise run through the bubble playoffs, I think it’s safe to say that not only has time not passed Pat by, but he’s built one hell of a core for Miami’s present and future.
Sure, the heroics of veterans like Jimmy butler and Jae Crowder will never be overlooked, but it’s the youngsters who have made Miami such an inviting destination for free agents. The youngest of the bunch might also be the main reason why. Let’s cover why Tyler Herro is now a household name.
If you look at the demographics of the NBA landscape, you’ll see that 81.1 percent of the players are black and 17.9 percent are white. White European NBA players have been able to shake their stigma of being soft in recent memory, but the white Americans are still dealing with the narrative that they’re only shooters, or that they’re unathletic, or that they can’t be used as a ball handler. For the most part, this is true; most white American players have very specific roles for their teams, rarely taking part in other aspects of the game. But there’s always exceptions folks, there’s always exceptions.
When Tyler Herro was taken out of Kentucky with the 13th overall pick, he made more headlines for his draft day suit than his actual game. He was known as the swaggy white kid, but he wasn’t known as the kid with unwavering confidence and a knack for hitting big time shots.
Tyler joined fellow teammates Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn as another absolute steal for the Miami Heat organization. Herro’s counting numbers in college were a very respectable 14 PPG, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists; showing that he can impact the game in a variety of ways. But playing for the University of Kentucky, with all of those other blue chip (literally) recruits, it’s not easy for one to stand out. For one, there’s a lot of high upside mouths to feed, and two, a player has to buy into coach Kalipari’s system.
These two factors can greatly diminish a player’s exposure, no matter how talented they may be. Because of this (and probably because of how he looks) Tyler pretty much flew under the radar for his entire collegiate career. He needed a moment that would allow him to stand out, even if it was just one. On February 27 2019, he would bask in that moment when he scored a collegiate career high 29 points behind a stat line of 9-of-10 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. This performance capped off a comeback victory against the University of Arkansas.
These are the moments that players live for. These are the moments that scouts look for. This was a moment that the Miami Heat noticed.
A Stellar Rookie Season
Herro entered the league with modest expectations. He was a late lottery pick for a team in win now mode. Jimmy Butler was the new alpha in town and rightfully made up the majority of Heat headlines. However, something that folks began to notice quite early was the budding relationship between Jimmy and Tyler, with talks of Jimmy taking Tyler under his wing, and viewing him as a little brother. I think it’s pretty safe to say that NBA fans are aware of Jimmy Butler’s work ethic; and for him to be drawn to another player’s hard work, then that player must be doing something right. And boy did the hard work pay off.
Tyler would go on to have a stellar rookie season, flashing a ceiling that many (myself included) did not expect him to have. He showed glimpses of everything; from ball handling abilities, to reading pick and rolls, to serving as a secondary playmaker, to having a picture-perfect jumper and to an already above average 3-point shot. Herro quickly became a favorite among south Florida hoop fans. According to basketballreference.com, in a shortened NBA season, Herro scored at least 20 points on 12 different occasions, including his regular season career high of 30 in the bubble against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Herro would also flash his all-around potential when he flirted with a triple double against the Phoenix Suns on 8/8/2020, behind a stat line of 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 10 assists, 8 rebounds and only 2 turnovers. He would cap off his rookie regular season with respectable averages of 13.5 PPG, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Herro would be named to the NBA All-Rookie Second team, joining fellow teammate Kendrick Nunn with All-Rookie honors. Now, with all of that being said; one would typically be satisfied if their rookie player put together that kind of season. But what if I told you the best was yet to come for Miami’s Herro?
The Bright Lights
The NBA playoffs are a different breed. The stage is set for players to shine and for others to get exposed. Only the truly elite can stake their claim as one of the very best basketball players on the planet. Typically, the NBA playoffs are brutally unkind to rookies. Shooting percentages dip, scoring averages drop, defense is second nature and turnovers increase.
If I told you that a player averaged 16.0 PPG, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists through 21 postseason games (courtesy of basketball reference.com), you would respond by saying “wow Meshach, that’s pretty darn good.” If I’d then reveal to you that it was a 20-year-old rookie, who also dropped a gem to the tune of 37 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists; on 66% shooting from the field and 50% shooting from 3 on 10 attempts; all in game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, well then you’d just call me a liar at that point. That performance would go on to set a record for most points scored by a rookie in a conference finals game.
Tyler Herro used the bubble as his coming out party. He blossomed before the nation’s eyes, hitting big shot after big shot, tallying triple doubles and becoming untouchable in real time to other organizations. Tyler Herro was no longer some unknown white kid from Kentucky. Tyler Herro became a household name.
In The Media
Saying that the bubble has been kind to Tyler Herro may be a bit of an understatement. Not only did his profile skyrocket on the court, but off the court as well.
We can all agree that Paul Pierce isn’t a fan of the Miami Heat; as noted here, here and here as well. This was all in one year. The latter comes from Paul Pierce stating that he’s not a fan of Tyler Herro’s “Bucket” nickname. I remind you, 37 points in the ECF. When a legend hates on you, you’re doing pretty well for yourself.
Tyler Herro also became a meme in the bubble. After delivering the dagger layup in game 3 of the NBA finals, Herro would then do something he claims that he’s never done before. He would turn towards the sideline and snarl; instantly becoming entrenched in internet lore. Did everyone love it? No. But fellow bucket Jimmy Butler surely did.
Everybody knows that in order to truly cement yourself as a celebrity, you must first date another celebrity. It’s practically a rite of passage at this point. If you’re not doing this then you’re just being a celebrity incorrectly. During the bubble, after the Miami Heat eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks from the playoffs, pictures of Herro and Instagram fitness model Katya Elise Henry began to surface. The two were seen spending quality time together in Disney World. According to the sun.co.uk, the couple began dating back in March when quarantine first began. Awesemo.com has also reported that Henry is the ex-girlfriend of fellow NBA player Kyle Kuzma. Talk about rebounding on and off the court.
Finally, we’re at the subject that spurred me to write this article in the first place. If dating another celebrity is a given, then having your name dropped in a song is an honor. Tyler Herro has a song named after him. Rap hit maker Jack Harlow recently released his single, along with a music video, entitled none other than Tyler Herro. One can make the argument that Jack is trying to capitalize on Herro’s newfound fame, since the song was released 11 days after the NBA season ended. Or maybe Jack is just really good friends / a huge fan of Herro. Either way, it’s even more exposure for the rookie as the song currently sits at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100. When one of the bigger names in Rap names a song after you, you’ve officially arrived.
I think it’s safe to say that Tyler Herro is now a household name.