June 22, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: What is 'Heat Culture'? Erik Spoelstra gives his take

Art by Royce Nicdao

One of the things most talked about during this year’s NBA Playoffs is the vaunted “Miami Heat Culture.”

From nearly missing the playoffs to now being in the NBA Finals, the Heat are seemingly proof that hard work can go a long way.

But what does “Heat Culture” really mean? One Sports’ Denise Tan got a chance to talk to longtime Heat coach Erik Spoelstra in an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Kaseya Center in Miami, Florida prior to Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

The question now is—how far can the “Heat culture” take them?

(Note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

Denise Tan: How would you define this "Heat Culture?" 

Erik Spoelstra: The "Heat Culture," if you just take a picture of Udonis Haslem, Alonzo Mourning, and Dwyane Wade, that's the best to describe it. It's that fierce competition, the mental toughness, the willingness to sacrifice, the willingness to do whatever is necessary to win. Sometimes you have to do the tough things. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice things that you want for somebody else [to get] towards that [goal].

This group has been through a lot this season. I think that this has been a game of adversity. You have to overcome it and then find some amazing things on the other side of it.

DT: People have always mentioned your undrafted players—Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, to name a fewand they've been contributing in their own ways. How does the mental toughness and their determination come into play as they try to kind of silence the noise?

ES: I think at this point now, to label those guys as undrafted guys is disrespectful. I mentioned this after the Eastern Conference finals, that I think this team is a team that a lot of people can relate to. If you've ever felt that at some point, you've been dismissed or someone has looked over you, or somebody has not looked at you with respect, that's a lot of our guys. We've all been, at some point, felt like that.

This team has given us something to rally around where we can be a part of something that's bigger than ourselves.

DT: Couple of days ago, you also talked about Nnamdi (Vincent). You said he was a special guy. What is it that you see from Nnamdi day in and day out, something that we necessarily don't have access to that allows him to make all those quick adjustments and for him to deliver in such a high level?

ES: Nnamdi is a Nigerian name. He started out as a two-way player. He's earned everything that he's gotten in this league. He had to learn some new positions, being a two guard, then learning how to be a combo guard, and he's embraced all that and done all the right things. He's about winning, sacrificing at times for the betterment of the team. You really root for guys like that.

DT: Aside from Nnamdi, Duncan Robinson was also huge. He scored all of his 10 points in the fourth quarter [of Game 2] and he said that he plays his best when he's having fun. Is this something that you also noticed from him and is this the kind of mentality that you're trying to spread within this team?

ES: Yeah, it's been a fun team because it's such a competitive group and a competitive fire. Sometimes a little over the edge, but it's good for us to know how to have fun.

As I've grown in this business, I've learned that it's equally as important and I like the balance that this group has and Duncan is one of those guys

(With reports from Denise Tan, One Sports)