MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami Heat lifer Udonis Haslem has shown he’s a team player on and off the field for nearly two decades, and he said he’s committed to help South Floridians who are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
Haslem has spent his entire 17-year NBA career with the Heat.
“He is Mr. Miami. We’ve been through everything together,” said Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.
Spoelstra was an assistant coach when Haslem was a rookie in 2003.
Haslem, who was undrafted, stands as the team’s all-time leading rebounder.
Now 39, the veteran player said he’s not done yet, but his path forward in the NBA is uncertain due to COVID-19.
“You sacrifice so much, and you give so much to be able to walk away from this game on your own terms and be able to walk away the way you would like it,” he said. “You want to just retire and be comfortable and walk away, pass that torch to the younger guys, and you want to go out on a winning note.”
In a recent interview, Spoelstra reflected on what Haslem has meant to the Heat franchise.
“My favorite Miami Heat player is not [an NBA] Hall of Famer but is a Miami Heat Hall of Famer, and his number will go up in the rafters as soon as he’s done,” he said.
Spoelstra and Haslem won three NBA championships together, but the road to success for the longtime player did not come easy growing up in Miami.
“He had to overcome so much to come out of the neighborhoods that he came out of, where there are drugs and things involved there that he had opportunities to go one path or a different path,” said Spoelstra. “When maybe some people would have quit, he found the grit to just keep on going when doors were closed and people said ‘no.’ He said, ‘I’m going to find a way to get that ‘yes.'”
Haslem has never forgotten his roots. Last week, he was once again out in the community helping to provide food for those in need.
7News cameras captured Haslem putting a box filled with much-needed food in the trunk of a car during a recent charity distribution.
“I have to continue to impact this city and these people. You can’t just fade away because your basketball game is not where it used to be, because you’re not playing as much as you used to play,” he said. “That’s not who I am. That’s not what I’m here for.”
“He’s got such a giving heart. His purpose is being ready to give back to the Miami community where he’s from,” said Spoelstra. “I love him.”
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