Apr 7, 2023 - Sports

Thanks, UD! Reminiscing on Heat's Haslem as he nears final game

Miami Heat player Udonis Haslem listens to the National Anthem before the game against the New York Knicks on March 25, 2022. Photo: Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

After 20 years with the Miami Heat, team captain Udonis Haslem will play in his final regular season home game Sunday as his legendary career comes to a close.

Why it matters: Haslem – a hometown kid who went from an undrafted rookie to a three-time NBA champion – played his entire career in Miami and holds the longest active streak of any player with a single team.

  • UD, who in recent years has transitioned from a role player to more of a locker-room motivator, still leads the Heat in career rebounds despite playing in just 64 regular-season games since the start of the 2016-17 season.
  • He also "100% personifies Miami culture," Greg Sylvander, co-host of the daily Heat podcast "Five on the Floor," tells Axios. Heat fans connected with him "knowing that he is one of them."

Driving the news: Heat president Pat Riley said the team will honor Haslem by hanging up his jersey from the rafters of the newly renamed Kaseya Center after he retires.

  • Earlier this season, the Heat celebrated Haslem by launching a new T-shirt line and dedicating a section of the arena, Section 305, to him.

What they're saying: Haslem told the Miami Herald last month that it's been difficult to enjoy the final weeks of his career as the Heat struggle to stay in the playoff picture.

  • "It's not easy. You want to enjoy it. But, man, the way you enjoy it is to move the needle and help us get wins. That's the way I'll enjoy it. It’s not the way any of us envisioned it going, but this is where we are. I wouldn’t change it for the world to be in this situation with these guys," Haslem said. "Hopefully we'll make a run and it turns into an amazing story."

His legacy: UD has made a big impact on those he has played with, Sylvander said.

  • "The best part about watching Udonis Haslem's career has been to see his leadership style evolve over time," Sylvander said. "The list of players who attribute success to mentorship from Haslem has been inspiring to see keep happening for two decades."

Thought bubble: Haslem played a key role in Miami's first championship in 2006, a roller-coaster series that created a lifelong Heat fan out of an 11-year-old me.

  • Miami came back from an 0-2 deficit to win the series 4-2 thanks to some all-time performances from Dwyane Wade and a gutsy 17-point, 10-rebound game from Haslem in the title-clinching Game Six.
  • Haslem instantly became a fan favorite for me because of his effort and determination, hustling to take defensive charges and staying ready when he was open for a baseline jumper.

The intrigue: Haslem said his retirement won't necessarily mean saying goodbye to the Heat organization.

What's next: The Heat (43-37) play tonight against the Washington Wizards and then Sunday against the Orlando Magic.

  • Miami — which holds the seventh seed in the East — is fighting for a playoff spot and might need to win a do-or-die game to make it.
  • The top six seeds in each conference advance directly to the first round of the playoffs, which begin April 14. Seeds 7 to 10 must play each other in a play-in series to determine what two teams advance to the playoffs.

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