Heat’s Udonis Haslem reminisces on his unique 20-year NBA career: ‘All I’ve ever tried to do is take care of my city’
Udonis Haslem, the oldest player in the NBA, could’ve never spent his whole career playing for Miami if his mother hadn’t moved to Jacksonville, Florida when he was a young boy. Later on in his time as a professional, many teams in the league desired to hire him, like Atlanta in 2002 or San Antonio the next year, but the veteran never left his city’s side.
Now that he’s only weeks away from officially retiring from the basketball courts, the 42-year-old reminisces about his rare career. The three-time champion with the club is only the third player to play two-long decades with one single franchise, just as Dirk Nowitzki did it in Dallas and Kobe Bryant with the Lakers.
What a career it has been for Udonis Haslem.
Heat Nation will miss you 🙏#HEATCulture pic.twitter.com/crk9KHItxc
— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCP) April 7, 2023
“All I’ve ever tried to do is take care of my people, take care of my city,” Haslem said with passion. “I think that’s why I can sit down with the mayor and commissioners, or I can sit down with people in the ’hood, and be comfortable either way. It’s because of the sacrifices that I’ve made for this city.”
Heat President Pat Riley is clear about what the veteran star represents for his club. “Udonis is Miami,” he assured. “He’s always had tremendous courage. Whatever endeavor, he rises to another level. And you need that. He was for real. He was that kind of man, someone who has tremendous pride being from Miami.”
Even though Haslem was never an All-Star, made the All-NBA team or even a player of the week award after 438-career weeks, his only real award was making NBA’s All-Rookie team in 2003/04.
Haslem doesn’t need hardware to prove his worth, as he is more than worshipped in Miami
However, ask anyone in Miami about him, and they’ll insist that there is no other player like their team captain, who is soon to have his No.4o jersey retired forever.
Even in his old age, he’s been impactful on court, even though his true influence comes through the locker room. Check out Udonis shooting for three-pointers at the age of 41:
Just to prove his worth for the Heat organization and roster, take a look at what his coach has to say about him. “He’s monumentally important for our organization and our locker room,” trainer Erik Spoelstra said. “He embodies everything that we believe in.
“And he has a way, because of the respect level, that he’s able to influence and mentor literally every player in the locker room. There’s nobody else like him,” Spoelstra assured.
Former coach Chet Kammerer also had a say in the matter.“He’s the poster child of a guy who was average, supposedly, and yet he became great,”, said the trainer, who has been in Miami’s player personnel department for 27 years.
“And how did he do that? Hard work. Great spirit. Great attitude. Never ‘can’t do this,’ never ‘can’t do that.’ And the success that we’ve had, he’s had more of a major contribution over the whole 20 years than people know,” he concluded.
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