A heroic journey: The story of the Miami Heat’s newest star, Tyler Herro

Miami Heat Tyler Herro (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Miami Heat Tyler Herro (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Tyler Herro was made for the big moment; now he’s in the NBA Finals

Paths and journeys. Most differentiate. But this was a journey of resilience after minor chaos.

Tyler Herro‘s remarkable resilience came after his home was externally vandalized one early morning. Herro, a 2018 four-star recruit from Whitnall High School, originally committed to the University of Wisconsin before de-committing and giving his loyalty to the University of Kentucky.

That de-commitment spurred vandalization outside Herro’s family home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Deprecatory and contemptuous remarks about Herro’s decision to play at Kentucky were spray-painted on the exteriors of the home, in addition to receiving death threats. He was pumping gas near his home when someone approached him with threatening comments.

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Herro was only an 18-year-old teenager who made the best decision for himself and his family. The Wisconsin Badger basketball program couldn’t acquire the 6-foot-5 perimeter threat, but the Kentucky Wildcats molded him into the “bucket” we see now in Miami.

Trademarks. What trademark made Tyler Herro the “bucket” we see now in the playoff bubble? There was one popularized trademark during his one-and-done campaign at Kentucky, “I’m a bucket.” A human bucket? Was he really that?

That trademark was in his swagger bag since his days on campus. I had the unique opportunity to see Herro as a freshman during my on-air news reporting days at ABC affiliate WTVQ-TV in Lexington, Kentucky. Speaking in terms of performance clinics, my initial thought when I analyzed him at a Kentucky basketball practice in 2018,“This guy is a walking clinic.”  

Then, within two minutes of a drill, I heard him verbatim tell former teammate Ashton Hagans, “I’m a bucket.” 

Clinics. Not health clinics for check-ups, but clinics that involved superior ball-handling and long-range shooting range. Herro was a legit “clinic” for the Wildcats. Coach John Calipari noticed the determination in Herro’s eyes during a game against Tennessee. It was the usual coming off a screen, pull-up, lights out 3-point shooting that rocked Kentucky’s fanbase every week.

And then, Herro was a pivotal factor in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. A fervent experience for me as a journalist. During my reporting trip in Kansas City, Missouri at the Sweet Sixteen, I saw Herro develop into the first-round pick that the Miami Heat eventually picked with the 13th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

He was given the green-light at Kentucky like most one-and-done hopefuls are. When Coach Calipari gave Herro the indication to, “go” that’s when his “walking bucket” image started to prevail.

One-and-done with a chance to prove himself at the highest level. That’s what Herro has done under Erik Spoelstra. But Herro isn’t the only Kentucky product doing damage for the Heat offense. Bam Adebayo was also an offensive monster at Kentucky. Does Kentucky breed the best players? The evidence lies inside of the Kentucky basketball buildings in Lexington. One has to visit Big Blue Nation to see the evidence.

A recent 37-point game-high performance against the Boston Celtics made Herro the talk of the Eastern Conference finals. Herro shot 14-of-21 from the field against the Celtics marking the first-ever playoff outing in his young career. Now, the Miami Heat head to the 2020 NBA Finals with a point to prove. To who? The Los Angeles Lakers? Or AD and LeBron?

If there’s a point to prove, Herro can prove it as a rookie in the NBA Finals. But there’s something he’s already proved. That resilience is needed to overcome tough life experiences. The heroic journey started inside the gyms of Whitnall High School. Could the former Wisconsin phenom obtain his first championship as a rookie?

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He now walks silently out the doors of Miami’s practice facility each day with one thought. “I’m a bucket.” Most “heroes” are known for bravery. It doesn’t take bravery to be a dominant scorer. Why? You’re either a BUCKET or you’re not.