By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
In what was an unusual year for Bahamas sports, for the first time there were no nominees for the top five spots from track and field.
Instead, those spots were filled by the three Bahamians now playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and two, who made history as they competed in the Major League Baseball.
What a year again to review without a top male track and field athlete.
Champion – Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield
After so many rumours swirling that also included the Los Angeles Lakers, Hield was finally traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Indiana Pacers on February 8 in a six-player deal and a 2023 second-round pick.
On February 11, the 30-year-old Grand Bahamian made his debut for the Pacers in a 120-113 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, recording a near triple double with 16 points, eight assists and nine rebounds.
The shooting guard came back on February 15 and scored a season-high 36 points while dishing out four assists in a 128–119 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and on December 5, he became the second-fastest player in NBA history to reach 1,500 career three-pointers, only behind Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry.
Hield, selected by the Pelicans with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft out of Oklahoma, is averaging 17.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game for the Pacers, who are in contention for a playoff run this season.
The 6-foot, 4-inch, 220-pound guard came home and played once again for the Bahamas in the Bahamas Basketball Federation’s bid to put together the best team possible to qualify for the FIBA World Cup.
Unfortunately, his best efforts in leading the Bahamas in a pair of games was not enough to get the Bahamas over the hump.
Runner-up – DeAndre Ayton
While the federation was looking forward to him coming home to team up with Hield and Kai Jones in the FIBA World Cup qualifier, Ayton opted not to play as he was dealing with negotiations for a new contract with the Phoenix Suns.
After he didn’t agree on a contract extension with the Suns, Ayton became a restricted free agent during the offseason and on July 14, 2022, he signed a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Pacers, amounting to the largest in league history.
Eventually, the Suns matched the Pacers offer and on July 18, Ayton signed the Suns’ multi-year contract.
Playing for the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 Conference in the 2017-18 season, Ayton was selected as the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft by the Suns. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2019.
In 2021, he helped Phoenix to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1999.
Ayton, 24, is now a formidable force to reckon with in the middle as a 7-0 centre for the Suns, averaging 17.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for Phoenix, who is sitting among the top echelon of the Western Conference in the NBA.
Third place finisher – Jasrado ‘Jazz’ Chisholm
Had it not been for a season-ending injury, Chisholm could have easily surged to the front of the pack.
The 24-year-old second baseman, Chisholm was hitting for a .254 batting average, alongside 14 home runs, 45 runs batted in, 39 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, and an on base plus slugging percentage of .860/
He was the National League leader at his position in OPS, home runs and RBI, as well as slugging percentage (.535) and triples (4) and made the All-Star game for the first time in his career, being named the starting second baseman for the National League.
Although he became the first Bahamian-born player to make the All-Star Game roster, Chisholm did not play in the game as he was placed on the injured list on June 29, due to what was then diagnosed as right lower back strain.
On July 22, Chisholm was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his lower back, and missed six weeks of the season. But on September 10, the Marlins confirmed that Chisholm would be out for the rest of the season.
Before he left, in 60 games played, Chisholm hit .254/.325/.535 with 14 home runs, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 45 RBI and 12 stolen bases
Fourth place finish – Kai Jones
After being drafted in the first round with the sixth pick in 2019 by the New York Knicks, the 21-year-old Jones, who was then traded to the Charlotte Hornets, is now coming into his own after spending a brief stint in the D-League.
The 6-11 forward, who was the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year for the University of Texas in 2021, is averaging 3.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.4 turnovers, 0.2 steals, 05 blocks and 1.4 personal fouls per game with his flashy aqua coloured hairdo.
Fifth place finisher – Lucius Fox
History was made again on April 10 when Fox was called up to play in the Majors for the Washington Nationals, becoming the eighth Bahamian to reach that lofty plateau, joining the two previous members in the league at the same time.
In his debut game, the shortstop laid down a safety squeeze bunt to tie the game in the eighth inning as the Nationals came from behind for a 4-2 win over the New York Mets.
Also playing in the league was Chisholm and Antoan Richardson, who is now the first base coach for the San Francisco Giants.
The other Bahamians to play in the Majors are Andre Rodgers, Tony Curry, Ed Armbrister, Wenty Ford and Wilfred Culmer, all of whom are deceased.
The 25-year-old Fox recorded his first MLB hit on May 1 in an 11-5 win over Richardson and the Giants, but was sent back to the Triple- A Rochester Red Wings on May 3.
On December 13, Fox was designated for assignment by the Nationals where he is awaiting his new assignment for 2023.
At the end of 2022, on December 4 to be exact, Fox teamed up with Todd Isaacs Jr to host the fifth edition of their fast growing Don’t Blink Home Run Derby that returned to its original site at Montagu shore after being staged on Paradise Island.
When it was all said and done, it came down to the first All Bahamian showdown in the final with BJ Murray out-slugging Trent Deveaux to cart off the crown, adding his name to the list of champions that included Bo Bichette, the back-to-back winner in 2018 and 2019, Lewis Brinson in 2020 and MJ Melendez last year.