Bam Adebayo named to NBA’s All-Defensive First Team for first time and makes Heat history

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo has been recognized as one of the league’s top defenders for most of his NBA career. But he’s never received this type of recognition.

After finishing third in the voting for this season’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year award for his highest finish in the balloting since he was drafted by the Heat in 2017, Adebayo has also been named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team for the first time in his career.

“I feel like this is a long time coming,” Adebayo said during a Zoom call with South Florida media just minutes after the news was announced on Tuesday afternoon. “But just staying in this moment, enjoying it. I’m blessed to be one of the ones selected.”

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Adebayo, who just completed his seventh NBA season, was selected for the All-Defensive Second Team in each of the previous four seasons before making the All-Defensive First Team for the first time in his career this season.

Adebayo, a three-time NBA All-Star, joins Alonzo Mourning (made First Team twice with the Heat in 1998-99 and 1999-00) and LeBron James (made First Team three times with the Heat in 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13) as the only three players in franchise history to be named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team while with the Heat.

With this selection marking Adebayo’s fifth All-Defensive honor since entering the NBA, he also becomes the only player in franchise history to make one of the league’s All-Defensive teams in five different seasons while with the Heat.

Five players regardless of position made the the All-Defensive First Team and another five players regardless of position made the All-Defensive Second Team.

The All-Defensive First Team for this season includes Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs, Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers, Herb Jones of the New Orleans Pelicans and Adebayo.

The All-Defensive Second Team includes Alex Caruso of the Chicago Bulls, Jrue Holiday of the Boston Celtics, Jaden McDaniels of the Timberwolves, Jalen Suggs of the Orlando Magic and Derrick White of the Celtics.

Among the panel of 99 media members who voted on the NBA’s awards for this regular season, Adebayo received 73 First-Team votes and 22 Second-Team votes. Only Gobert (99 First-Team votes) and Wembanyama (86 First-Team votes) received more First-Team votes than Adebayo.

Adebayo was the only Heat player who received a vote for this season’s All-Defensive teams.

Adebayo, 26, has established himself as one of the NBA’s best and most versatile defenders at 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds. Not only has he proven he can effectively guard every position on the court, but he also possesses a unique versatility to toggle between different defensive schemes from possession to possession and game to game based on what’s needed.

With Adebayo at the center of everything the team does on that end of the court, the Heat closed the regular season with the NBA’s fifth-best defensive rating despite its injury issues. While that injury problem led the Heat to set a new franchise record with 35 different starting lineups used this regular season, Adebayo was one of the constants with 71 games played this regular season (second-most on the team behind only Jaime Jaquez Jr.).

The Heat allowed just 109.3 points per 100 possessions with Adebayo on the court this regular season, a defensive rating that would have ranked second-best among NBA teams.

“For me, it’s bringing that next level of being an all-around player,” Adebayo said. “Being that level of there is no weaknesses on the defensive end. You can put him in any coverage, you can put him on anybody.”

Now, Adebayo waits to see if he’ll also make an All-NBA Team for the first time in his career. Those three teams made up of five players regardless of position will be announced Wednesday at 8 p.m. on TNT.

Wednesday’s All-NBA reveal is especially important to Adebayo because it will likely determine the value of his next contract.

The only remaining way that Adebayo, who is currently under contract through the 2025-26 season, can become eligible for the supermax extension is by being named to an All-NBA team (first, second or third) this season.

If Adebayo does make the All-NBA cut, he would become eligible to sign a four-year, $245 million extension this offseason.

But if Adebayo doesn’t qualify for the supermax, he will instead be eligible for a three-year contract worth $165 million that would begin with a $51.2 million salary for the 2026-27 season.

Adebayo becomes eligible to sign his extension beginning on July 7. Any extension Adebayo signs this offseason would begin in the 2026-27 season.

So far, Adebayo (All-Defensive First Team) and Jaquez (All-Rookie First Team) are the only Heat players who have been honored this postseason with NBA accolades for the 2023-24 regular season.

“For me, are people starting to pay attention? I feel like they are at this point,” Adebayo said of the defensive recognition he’s received for this season’s body of work. “This is my first time being First Team in my career. So I feel like it’s a stepping stone and we’re just going to keep this ball rolling.”

Adebayo still has a goal, though, of winning the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award that went to Gobert this season. Even though he finished as one of the top three vote-getters for the honor this season for the first time in his career, he wants more.

“I wouldn’t say it was disappointment because I can’t be disappointed because I didn’t vote,” Adebayo said of missing out of the Defensive Player of the Year award. “It is what it is. I don’t control that part of it. For me in my eyes, I’m going to always feel like I’m the Defensive Player of the Year.”