*MIAMI – Miami Heat star and two-time NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo sat down for a wide-ranging interview on the latest episode of “The Pivot Podcast” just days before the Heat step back onto the court for game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics Tuesday night.
In talking with the show’s co-hosts and former NFL stars Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor, Oladipo went into great detail describing his years-long journey recovering from various serious injuries and how he’s been able to mentally handle that burden.
Now that he’s finally returned to playing significant minutes during the Heat’s current run, he appears more determined than ever to return to All-Star status.
“It tests you mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Oladipo.” It makes you go through a whirlwind of emotions. Literally, you start thinking about if you’re good enough and if you should keep playing. I was sitting in a dark room and I just broke down, in tears. I didn’t know where to go. Once I reached that point, it was just answered after answer after that. I realized who was really with me, and they helped me get back to this point today. It’s made me stronger in ways that I probably wouldn’t have been as strong if it didn’t happen the way it happened.”
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Following back-to-back All-Star seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Oladipo only played in 60 regular-season games over the last three seasons, but has recently found himself back in the rotation and playing an important role in the Heat’s pursuit of an NBA championship. Despite his desire to regain his status in the league, Oladipo stresses that he is focused on filling whatever role will best service his current team.
“There’s a certain level that I’m trying to get to,” said Oladipo. “I have to understand that that’s not my role on this team. I have to understand that I have to be a star in this role that I’m in. To be honest with you, do I want more? Of course, who doesn’t want more? Right now, in this junction, I have to be the best version of myself that this team needs. They need that version. Regardless of whatever my role is or what they ask of me, they need whatever it is they’re asking for. I have to embrace that.”
Taylor continued to push Oladipo on those desires he has to reach his previous heights, especially considering the many injuries Taylor endured throughout his career. For Oladipo, it’s a constant battle between patience and the natural desire to compete and succeed on the highest level.
“I’m human, why shouldn’t it be me?” said Oladipo. “I’ve come back from everything you can imagine. Why do I have to wait longer? Honestly, I’m a lot better than I was a month ago and better than I was two and three months ago. I guess I just want it all right now. I’ve been dealing with this for years…It’s to the point where I’m just so over this rehab thing. I just want to focus on being great. But I have to understand that it’s a process.”
The crew also asks Oladipo about the Heat’s superstar and leader, Jimmy Butler, who was seen having a vocal argument with Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra during a game late in the regular season. While Butler is known for having a potentially more volatile demeanor throughout his career, from Oladipo’s experience, much of that perception is misconstrued.
“There’s a real misconception about Jimmy and I think he understands that,” said Oladipo. “Nobody is perfect, obviously. He’s true to himself and he understands who he is. Just because people perceive him one way, that doesn’t mean that’s him. When you’re on his team, you know you’re on his team.”
Part of why the Heat have been able to maintain success despite perceived bumps in the road is the larger culture the team is known for breeding, known colloquially around the league as “Heat Culture” simply. While Oladipo finds the concept hard to explain to those on the outside, hard work and cohesiveness are the two standout traits the team seeks in his mind.
“’Heat Culture’ is really the understanding that everyone needs to put in their part of the work for everything to work,” said Oladipo. “And we really do work hard, we get it in…It’s easier to experience than it is to explain. You have to be a part of it to really get what it is…There’s a different feeling and a different way of working. The different mentality is the biggest thing. We understand what we’re coming to do.”
The episode also sees Oladipo discuss the Heat’s upcoming Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Boston Celtics. With a spot in the NBA Finals on the line, Oladipo expects another competitive series between two of the league’s best teams all year.
“We know it’s not going to be easy,” said Oladipo. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy no matter who we play. We know it’s going to be a fight, but we’re all about the fight. We’re going to fight regardless, no matter what day it is or what time it is…I’m sure Boston is similar. We’re looking forward to it…These are two great defensive teams with a bunch of guys who can guard multiple positions and also put it on the floor. It’s going to be fun.”
In closing out the episode, after discussing his burgeoning music career with Crowder, Oladipo reiterates his intent on getting 100% back to where he was prior to his injuries, and won’t stop until everyone remembers what he’s capable of at his peak.
“I just want to make people remember,” said Oladipo. “Some of them forgot, and it’s okay, because it comes with the territory. But I don’t plan on going anywhere but up. I’m just going to keep grinding.”
source: Swanson Communications