Victor Oladipo: Recovered And Ready To Prove Himself

Victor Oladipo, a two-time NBA All-Star, announced his return to the Miami HEAT with a memorable (if not entirely printable) Instagram post and would formally go on to re-sign with the team on July 7, 2022. 

Seems simple right? The 30-year-old Oladipo was a key postseason contributor on a HEAT club that was a hair’s length from the NBA Finals. For those who have closely followed the dynamic guard’s journey, however, his return to NBA action was anything but. 

“I’m starting all over again,” said Oladipo back in a March practice with the team shortly after making his season debut. 

After being drafted 2nd overall by the Orlando Magic in 2013, Oladipo bounced around a bit thanks to a pair of trades, first to Oklahoma City in 2017 and then Indiana the following year. With Indiana, Oladipo truly ascended into the NBA’s upper-tier, being selected to two All-Star teams as a Pacer, making the All-NBA 2nd Team in 2018, and earning an All-NBA 1st Team Defense selection as well as the 2018 Most Improved Player of the Year award. Dipo was a true two-way force entering his prime, an explosive leaper who was impossible to keep from the rim and a prideful, gifted defender with the length and quickness to eradicate opposing ballhandlers and trigger fastbreaks. 

Nearly as suddenly as his ascent, Victor experienced his first drastic setback, rupturing his quadriceps tendon on January 23, 2019 in a game against Toronto. His 2018-19 season was over and, following a first attempt at repairing the tendon, Oladipo returned in 2020 (a unique season in and of itself that paused in March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic before resuming in August) and faced off against the HEAT in the first round of the postseason, with Miami sweeping the series.  

The following season would see Oladipo rerouted twice, first from Indiana to Houston, and then Houston to Miami, with the HEAT acquisition of the guard at the February trade deadline seen as a potential boon to the team’s fortunes. Here was a guard averaging over 20 points and known for elite point-of-attack defense coming in to immediately complement Miami’s All-Star frontcourt of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. 

“Victor will give us an entirely different kind of player than what we have on our team,” said HEAT President Pat Riley upon the initial acquisition of Oladipo. “Victor brings you the whole package.” 

Four games into his HEAT career, Oladipo, in the midst of his then-strongest game with the club (18 points on 5-8 shooting through three-and-a-half quarters) threw down what looked to be a fairly routine dunk before coming down limping. After multiple tests, it was revealed that Oladipo tore the same quad and would miss the rest of the season. 

Following a second surgery, OIadipo and the HEAT mapped out a lengthy rehab process. Though it proved grueling at times, especially as Victor had to spend much of the 2021-22 season watching and working behind the scenes as the HEAT rose to the top of the Eastern Conference, the payoff resonated throughout the organization. Oladipo returned to NBA action on March 7, scoring 11 points and dishing out 4 assists against the Houston Rockets in a 123-106 win that featured chants of “OL-A-DIPO” from the home faithful who recognized the significance of the moment for Victor. 

"It was a great feeling. Unbelievable. Words can't really describe it," Oladipo said of the love from HEAT Nation following his first game. "I appreciate them for doing that. It made that moment even more special.” 

The team would manage Oladipo’s minutes and games the rest of the regular season as he eased his way back, playing in 8 of Miami’s last 17 regular season matchups. Victor would average a solid 12.4 points and 3.5 assists on 48 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent from three and would close out the HEAT’s regular season with a 40-point, 10-rebound, 7-assist explosion against the Orlando Magic. 

“Physically, he’s in a much better place than where he was last year,” HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra said of Oladipo. 

The HEAT were a team that earned a #1 seed in the East off the strength of their impressive depth, with 7 different players averaging over 10 points per game on the year, but that depth was challenged early in the postseason, with injuries to starting point guard Kyle Lowry as well as Jimmy Butler. In came Oladipo, whose ability to force turnovers and create shots buoyed the team. Oladipo helped Miami advance to Round 2 of the playoffs, dropping 23 points in the series clincher against Atlanta while starting for an injured Butler. 

"When they told me I needed to start tonight I just stepped up to the plate and did everything I could to help my team win," Oladipo said in the postgame interview following the victory. 

Oladipo would remain entrenched in the team’s rotation the rest of the postseason, averaging 24.5 minutes and playing in every postseason game in Miami’s following two series against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. He would average 10.6 points and 1.3 steals throughout the playoffs. 

Now, we are back at the present, with Oladipo’s return a clear point of excitement for both him and the team. For the first time in what feels like ages, Oladipo has been able to participate in traditional offseason training, as well as take a much needed vacation to Cabo with his family, and he hasn’t been shy about expressing his elation for what’s on the horizon. 

“It just feels good to be able to hoop in the summer time again,” Oladipo said during a recent Jr. HEAT x Rolling Loud community event. “Just to work out and play against guys in the summertime and work on my game and improve my game, improve my strength, just being comfortable out there. Looking forward to the opportunity that lies ahead.” 

What does Oladipo hope to prove during the upcoming season? 

“That I’m one of the best players in the world, period.”