Udonis Haslem is a heat lifer. That sentence is not a cliché.
Can you imagine Haslem in another NBA franchise basketball uniform?
Haslem who is playing in his fifteenth NBA season is individually on the cover of the team’s media guide this season. Deservedly so.
Haslem deserves to pick his location on where his future statue be placed near American Airlines Arena. His rebounding numbers make him the Heat’s all-time leader however off the court his impact is felt throughout the South Florida community.
When the topic of discussion is Miami, the Dade County native can speak countless hours. His favorite college football team; the Miami Hurricanes, the loss of a High school basketball star due to gun violence or the numerous advice he shares with his son whom he missed a Heat game to witness his team win the state title for South Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas.
Malcolm Nicholas III was a 19-year-old, 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard who had the potential to be a breakout star at the next level. Weeks ago, Miami police shared the former Miami Senior High and Mater Academy Charter standout was walking around Overtown at about 7 p.m. in the area of Northwest Fifth Avenue and 7th Street when the shots were fired. Nicholas was shot and killed.
Haslem was among those in the Miami community who was close to Nicholas’ father, Malcolm Nicholas Jr. He knew the younger Nicholas.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s a difficult situation for everybody. His dad was a mentor of mine and looked out for me when I was young and impacted a lot of kids’ lives. I know what type of father he was, and I know what type of kid he was. He didn’t deserve for that situation to happen to him,” Haslem stated.
“What can you say, man, it’s that Miami lifestyle. You hear about people getting killed all the time and different things happening in the inner city. We have to figure out something. I thought it was bad when I was growing up. I thought it couldn’t get any worse and now it continues to get worse and worse and worse. When I was growing up, you used to look up to the older G’s, and they’d give you advice, and you would listen. Now, these kids don’t listen.”
An ongoing police investigation continues, and Police are offering a $3,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case.
Haslem’s oldest son Kedonis Haslem who committed to the Toledo Rockets to play football is weeks away from completing his first semester away from home in Ohio. He is patiently waiting for his time to contribute his talent to the team because he redshirted this year, but his participation on the team and campus activities have the advice and support of Udonis.
“Coach (Jason) Candle has done an amazing job, obviously MAC Coach of the Year, with all this coach movement going on, hopefully, he sticks around,” Haslem stated. “Everything happens for a reason; my son is getting his feet wet, getting acclimated academically, having the chance to have the college lifestyle, attending practice, study hall, going to chapel and doing the different things and implementing it into his everyday routine. It is good to get that under his belt.
The Toledo Rockets defeated the Akron Zips in the MAC Championship game. Along with the conference championship, the Rockets will play in a bowl game for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in eight years. The Rockets hadn’t won 11 games since going 11-0-1 in 1995, a bowl-game victory in the Dollar General Bowl against the Appalachian State Mountaineers would tie the school record of 12 wins, set in 1970 and tied the next year.
The Miami Herald reported last season, Haslem was granted a day off so that he could watch Kedonis compete in his final high school game as a starting offensive lineman. Haslem was given his request to attend the game by Heat president Pat Riley. A priceless experience for Udonis.
Haslem has demonstrated his loyalty to the Hurricanes. “The U” is not back. However, they have leaped further than expected. This Hurricanes team won the ACC coastal division as predicted. Defeating the Florida State Seminoles on the road, immense back-to-back wins over Virginia Tech and rival Notre Dame on primetime stages.
Also, winning ten games with a trip to the ACC championship for the first time where they played a Clemson defense who dominates everyone. For the U to be back, it will take more than two seasons. The lesson in the loss to Clemson is they are the measuring stick.
“You have to take it for what is it worth, everybody expected a lot, I expected a lot too, but at the end of the day Clemson has been to the National Championship two years straight, they are always in the conversation,” Haslem added. “ The U is maybe a year away from being at that level right now; you are talking about not only a lot of talent but you are talking about also a lot of experience on Clemson’s side with those guys being in the playoffs, Miami just has to get to that point.”
The Orange Bowl, one of the New Year’s six bowls is the final destination for the season for the Hurricanes. They are the first team in 40 years to go to the Orange Bowl on a two-game losing streak. Their opponent, the Wisconsin Badgers out of the Big Ten conference. Miami is the designated home team, literally with the game played at Hard Rock Stadium.
A reminder. Haslem is proud to be from Miami. He has come a long way from the cornrow braids to becoming a married father who is a lifer to giving back to the Miami community. Haslem is involved in projects that are creating jobs for unemployed candidates from low-income families in South Florida. Haslem is the founder of the Udonis Haslem Children’s Foundation, which is meant to promote youth development and self-confidence through programs and services designed to enable them to reach their full personal and educational potential.
The Heat have tri-captains this season in James Johnson, Goran Dragic, and Udonis Haslem. “U.D. will be a lifetime captain for however long he plays, and even well beyond that, he’ll be the forever captain,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. The minutes may have diminished on the court for Haslem, but they are endless off the basketball court.