Gabe Vincent returns home to the West Coast. He’s a man of routine, defensive by nature, and ready for this next chapter of greatness.
We all have days when the alarm goes off at 7:00 am and we hit snooze until 7:30 am, days when it’s cold and cloudy outside and our motivation is low, so we deem that day our off day, stressful days when we substitute dinner with a carton of ice cream.
Gabe Vincent doesn’t have those days.
The former Miami Heat point guard always holds himself accountable; he’s made working hard a habit.
“So much of it just becomes your lifestyle; it just becomes what you do,” Gabe said of his routine while sitting outside the Los Angeles Lakers players’ lounge. “It’s a Tuesday, so I’m going to wake up at this time and go through my routine of what I do every Tuesday, or Wednesday, or whatever the case may be, whether I feel like it or not.”
Gabe is now a piece of a cohesive crew looking to harness their momentum from last season and generate even more.
But Los Angeles has about 81+ games ahead of them before they encounter the opportunity they had last year, they’re at the base of the mountain staring up at the peak. Gabe’s remedy for the gruesomeness that comes with the climb? Routine.
“I think routines are important. Anytime you’re chasing a big goal or something that’s difficult, your motivation can get kind of hot and cold, or can be lukewarm some days, but those routines and habits bring you back, you just get back on fire with it. You still got to do it, you’ve got to work, day in and day out. The routine can bring you back to that motivation, the hot streak I guess; you’re on fire for your goal.”
The California native went undrafted after attending the University of Santa Barbara and playing stellar basketball for the Gauchos (he was the Big West Freshman of the year in 2015). After not garnering any looks in the 2018 NBA draft, Gabe took his talents to the G League, playing for the Stockton Kings, just north of his hometown of Modesto. It was there where Gabe earned the Most Improved Player Award and eventually caught the attention of Miami’s front office.
In 2020, he was signed as a two-way player for the Heat and just three years later he was starting for Miami in the NBA Finals, averaging 12.7 points and 3.5 assists in the 2023 postseason. This journey is largely a testament to Gabe’s habits. “Some days you may love to do it and be excited to do it,” he said of his regimen, “And some days maybe you didn’t sleep well, maybe your stomach is upset, maybe something is going on in your personal life, but this is what you do on Tuesdays so you just get after it, do your work, and continue those good habits.”
Before sitting down in the players’ lounge, he extended his hand and flashed that big Gabe Vincent smile. His perfectly straight teeth are a glowing example of his dedication to routine. He brought with him a calming energy and was incredibly present, maybe due to his daily dose of two espresso shots, but it’s likely that’s just Gabe.
He explained how his temperament is on account of his parents, Franklyn and Cynthia, who are doctors in psychology. “The biggest thing,” Gabe explained, “They helped instill some things within me like how to deal with people, how to deal with adversity, how to respond to situations. I’m not sure how much of it was intentional but it’s helped me very much so, just staying levelheaded and managing situations, when things get too high, and I balance myself out or when things get too low, and I balance myself out. I try to stay as even keeled as possible.”
As a professional athlete, it’s natural to get hung up on the results; with that mindset it’s very easy for doubt to creep in. You’ll never be able to control the outcome. But when you decide to keep your head down and stay hellbent on the process, it’s there you’ll find stability, and progress will come inevitably—Gabe has experienced this firsthand. His basketball journey has shaped him into a dynamic player.
He's tough, defensively minded, and a shot maker who’s comfortable playing on and off the ball. Arguably his best attribute is his willingness to continuously adapt his game.
“I think it’s evolved in a number of ways,” Gabe said of his style of play, “I’ve had to wear many hats and play many roles from Santa Barbara, being off the ball, to the G League being more of a scorer, people called me a gunslinger when I was in there. Then joining the Heat and playing a little bit more of the point guard position and showing my defensive capabilities more, to the tail end of it, playmaking, as well as scoring, playing off the ball, playing in multiple positions, guarding multiple positions. I’ve had a lot of experience with different roles, and I think that will help me most coming here to L.A. and being able to step into whatever role that’s needed to help us win.”
Where he was once tossing up impossible shots, Gabe’s got effective footwork that provides him with a hard-to-stop quickness and the ability to find open space and get his shot up with composure and meticulous form—he’ll rarely, if ever, take the shot unless he’s able to get his hips squared to the basket—his three-point shooting played a crucial role in lifting the Heat over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals as he shot a lights-out 48.9% from the arc in his six games played.
Quick feet and squaring off the hips were early fundamentals for Gabe. He explained how he played soccer until he was eleven years old when he made the switch to basketball. In soccer, the accuracy of your shooting and passing are controlled by the direction your hips are facing. And obviously footwork is crucial when it comes to dribbling and attacking moves.
Soccer influenced another strength of Gabe’s as well.
“Defense was always a priority for me because in soccer defense is such a big portion of the game,” he explained.
When asked what position he played he replied, “Center mid. It was exhausting,” he added with a laugh, “It was such a balance of controlling the pace of the game, controlling the ball, possession, and defending was huge.”
If you’re playing in the center positions on the soccer field, you’re responsible for getting up the field, and either scoring or creating a scoring opportunity, and then immediately tracking back and defending. If you stay up or stay back for too long, you’ll screw up your team’s whole formation. And playing this position, even if just in his formative years, gave Gabe a unique outlook on the basketball court:
“In basketball it was just like, if I can get my average and keep you five points under your average, it was almost just like an extra five points for me,” he said. “In many ways that’s just kind of how I’ve viewed it and so defense to me has always been important. It’s not only about how much I can score but how much I can keep you from scoring as well.”
It’s these good habits that make Gabe a solid player and dependable teammate. This is going to be his fifth season in the league and for every year that Gabe has played professional basketball, he’s garnered postseason experience. He knows the endurance it requires to take your body and mind past 82 games.
For much of the interview, Gabe sat forward with his forearms resting on his thighs. But then he leaned back on the outdoor couch cushion and folded his hands in his lap as he reflected on the excellence he’s been a part of these past few seasons, and the excellence waiting for him in this next chapter:
“I mean it’s just greatness and being around greatness is contagious,” he explained about his four seasons playing with Jimmy Butler and this upcoming chapter playing alongside LeBron James. “It forces you to raise your level. You want to be a part of greatness in any aspect, whatever fuels your end too.”
“It’s awesome to be a part of,” he continued, speaking to joining LeBron and the Lakers, “and it was awesome to be a part of Jimmy’s journey these last four seasons, watching him work and seeing how he operates, being on the opposing side of Bron, watching how he operates and how he works, and now being in this locker room facing Jimmy, it will be interesting to see the similarities and differences. I’ve been able to complement them by just doing whatever they need me to do.”
While still sitting back on the couch, Gabe commented how in the presence of greatness you either, “Keep pace or go sit down.” The new Laker said it in a relaxed and equally merciless way. And he flashed his smile again.