The Miami Heat‘s media day kicked off on Monday with one very familiar face missing from all the action. While head coach Erik Spoelstra, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry spoke to the press, the team’s captain, Udonis Haslem, appeared to be a no-show.
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Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman later confirmed that Haslem would not only be missing media day but that his attendance at training camp, which starts on Tuesday, is in question following the death of his father, John “Deke” Haslem.
It’s a heartbreaking loss for the 41-year-old power forward. The three-time NBA champion was incredibly close with his father. On March 14, Haslem threw a big family party to celebrate John Haslem’s 70th birthday, and wrote the following tribute on Instagram:
If you know my pops then you know he deserves every smile in each of these pictures. It’s been a long year but my OG continues to show me how it’s done…. Keep ya head up. Chest out and no matter what don’t show no signs of weakness… Man I love the hell outta you for the MAN you made me. I literally have the grit and mindset to push through anything. If not for that, there is no rebounding record or 3x champ…. You’ve literally taught me how to will my way to success because like you said nobody was gonna give me sh**t!!! I love Main Man….
This past June, Haslem took his dad out on a golf trip in Casa de Campo with his brothers to celebrate Father’s Day.
Haslem’s father, who raised him in Liberty City, was a star basketball player at Miami Northwestern High School and at Miami-Dade North Community College’s summer leagues in the late ’70s, per The Ringer‘s Andrew Sharp:
Haslem’s mother, Debra, became an important presence in his adult life, but she battled addiction through his childhood. He spent the majority of his childhood with his father and stepmom, Barbara Wooten. They had to ‘fight and scrap and claw’ in the words of a high school coach, but their house was always warm and welcoming.
Haslem Is Entering His 19th Season in the NBA
Haslem signed a one-year veteran’s minimum contract ($2.6 million), the same deal he signed for the 2020-21 NBA season, with his contract counting against the salary cap at $1.7 million.
The veteran only appeared in one game last season. On May 13, during the Heat’s regular-season finale, he played for a total of two minutes and 40 seconds before getting ejected for an altercation with then-Sixers’ veteran Dwight Howard.
Prior to getting ejected, Haslem received a standing ovation from Heat president Pat Riley and the crowd as he stepped onto the court.
Haslem joined the Heat in 2003, but he hasn’t been a permanent part of the rotation since the 2014-15 season. Over the past four years, despite very little time on the court, Haslem has found himself a niche role as the team’s de facto leader and mentor.
The Heat will retain Haslem for as long as he still wants to play, as Spoelstra it’s impossible to put a value on what Haslem provides for the team.
“Everybody in that locker room just has great respect and love for him,” Spoelstra said. “He’s all about the team,” Spoelstra said last season… “He’s a Miami Heat hall of famer, and his number will go up in the rafters as soon as he’s done.”
Haslem Took Miami’s 7-Foot Stud Under His Wing This Summer
This past offseason, he was a major presence at the Heat’s summer league in Las Vegas and Sacramento. Haslem has already had an effect on Omer Yurtseven, Heat’s newly-signed 7-foot center.
“It has been a lot of learning, like watching film and taking it all in,” Yurtseven said, per Miami Herald‘s Anthony Chiang. “I’m still making those adjustments inside the game. All the coaches have been in my ear and also, OG, Udonis Haslem has been with us like for the last two, three games just giving advice, letting me know I have to make the guards make a play, jab at them and like make them either pass or shoot or hesitate so that our guards can get out front.”