Udonis Haslem is one of the few remaining OGs in the NBA. His tough love and direct approach convinced the Miami Heat that his presence is still needed in the locker room. Him defending his team from bashers belittling the Heat's trip to the Finals in the Orlando bubble proves the organization was right to bring him back.
Haslem walking the walk
At 41 years old, Haslem knows his playing days are nearing their end. But despite not getting enough playing time last year, Miami still offered him a one-year extension worth $2.6 million. There are intangibles that the center brings to the table, and most of them manifest behind the scenes.
The 19-year-veteran knows what it takes to win a championship, and before demanding the young players to exert extra effort, he sets himself as the standard to follow, as reported in an interview published by GQ.
"I'm 41 years old, man," Haslem said. "I walk in the locker room and I'm 223 pounds and have six percent body fat. I don't have to be six percent body fat if I don't want to. I don't have to do none of this shit. But it's a standard, dog. How the hell do I tell Markeiff Morris or anybody that we need them to lose weight, or get in shape, and this is the standard, if I'm not that?"
As one of the OGs tasked to instill the Heat culture to the newcomers, Haslem would defend his teammates to death. A lot of people belittle Miami Heat's title run in the Orlando bubble in 2020. Many say Miami gate-crashed what could have been mouthwatering finals between LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. For Udonis Haslem, it's not their fault fans' favorites faltered under the bright lights of the postseason.
“What pisses me off, man, is that people discredit what [the Heat] did in the bubble because we didn’t have a great season the very next season. Don’t get mad at me because your favorite team and favorite player was a mental midget in the bubble. Trying to fry chicken and have pool parties and shit, we ain’t here for that. Ain’t our fault motherf-----s was soft!...why discredit us?”
Udonis Haslem, GQ
The Heat can pull another surprise this year
With the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers facing uncertainties in their roster this season, the biggest threat for the Heat are the Milwaukee Bucks -- they swept Miami in the 2021 playoffs. And despite what happened in Miami's season opener -- they blew out Milwaukee 137-95 -- a potential playoff series against the defending champions would be a nightmare for Erik Spoelstra's team.
Giannis and the rest of his teammates gained valuable experience after winning the title over the Phoenix Suns last year. They are a different beast now, and if Haslem wants the Heat to prepare for their possible postseason encounter with the Bucks, it starts with him and what Miami does in practices. At the end of the day, that's what got him another extension in the first place.
Fans want a Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden vs. LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook finals, but the Heat have other things in mind. If the rest of his teammates could follow Udonis Haslem's lead, they would be in a better position to gate-crash the finals once again. And I bet no one would bash this one.