For his 23rd birthday, Bahamian professional basketball player DeAndre Ayton made the trip home with his family. They were greeted at the airport by a small Junkanoo band and representatives from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation on Friday in New Providence.
The Phoenix Suns starting center returned home after an extended season that saw his team lose 4-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in their best-of-seven NBA (National Basketball Association) Finals series on Tuesday night. They lost Game 6, 105-98, at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
He posted “home” with the Bahamian flag on his Instagram page.
On hand to greet him as he walked off the plane with his infant son were Ministry of Tourism & Aviation Senior Manager Eldece Clarke; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism & Aviation Reginald Saunders; Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Director of Sports, Timothy Munnings; and National Sports Authority (NSA) General Manager Quinton Brennen.
The “Happy Birthday” song was sung to him after disembarking the plane.
In just his third year in the league, Ayton has indeed made the leap to get onto the next stage with his rebounding, pick-and-roll, around the rim presence and his newfound threat on the defensive side of the ball.
He helped the Suns to finish with the second-best win-loss record (51-21) in the league and the Western Conference this past season.
In the six Finals games, the number one overall pick averaged a double coming away 14.7 points and a team high 12 rebounds per game. He was efficient, shooting 52.9 percent from the field this series. Ayton played at least 37.5 minutes per game this series and got 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals a contest.
The University of Arizona product put the league on notice with his performance in the 22 games that he played in his postseason debut. His numbers were impressive as he averaged a double-double with 15.8 points per game and 11.7 rebounds. His efficiency from the field was unmatched, as he shot 65.8 percent all playoffs. In the end, he averaged 1.1 blocks, 1.1 assists and 0.80 steals per game. All that came from him playing for 36.4 minutes per game.
He is the first player in NBA history to average at least 15 points and 10 rebounds on 65 percent in a single playoffs.
One of the most memorable plays for Ayton this season came in Game 2 in the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers. He threw down the game-winning alley-oop dunk, dubbed the “Valley-oop”, to lift the Phoenix Suns to a 104-103 victory with 0.7 seconds left on the clock. The win put the Suns up 2-0 in that series.
This past regular season, he played in 69 games and was able to average 14.4 points per game and a team high 10.5 rebounds. He also had 1.2 blocks per game. His production from the field was unmatched as he shot a blistering 62.5 percent to finish fourth overall in the league in that statistic.