Heat Veteran Forward Announces Final Decision on Retirement

Udonis Haslem

Getty Udonis Haslem #40 of the Miami Heat looks on before Game Three of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on May 21, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Miami Heat‘s veteran forward Udonis Haslem held all the cards when it came to whether or not he’d return to play for the 2022-23 NBA season. The Heat made it abundantly clear that they wanted the team captain to return, and made a heartfelt pitch to bring back the 42-year-old big man.

“To show his continued importance and value to the franchise, the Miami Heat sent a delegation of employees to make a free agency pitch to Udonis Haslem promptly at 6pm tonight with hopes of luring him back for Year 20,” The AP’s Tim Reynolds tweeted on June 30.

After months of indecision, on Sunday, August 21, while giving a speech at his alma mater, Miami High, Mr. 305, who’s played with the Heat throughout his entire NBA career, announced that he will be returning for this 20th season. However, he noted that this upcoming season will also be his last.

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Through tear-filled eyes, “Got one more in me for Pop,” Haslem said, of his father, Johnnie Haslem, who died at age 70 last August. “Got one more in me for the city. Got one more in me for the team.”

While the undrafted forward out of Miami plays sparingly, he appeared in just 13 games during the 2021-22 season, Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra passionately believes the veteran’s effect on the team is so much deeper than what he does on the court.

Spoelstra also loves what he sees when Haslem does play. Coach Spo said during a postgame conference on November 17, “UD gives you that emotional ignitability. That’s tangible, but you can’t put an analytic to it. But he gave us a great emotional spark, made some plays. Of course, he’s going to take a hit. But the block and then running the floor. All of that, you could just feel it lift up our team, which was great to see. I’ve seen that so many times, that emotional lift.”

Over the past six seasons, he’s appeared in just 58 matchups, averaging 7.0 points per game, as reported by Hoops Rumors.

Haslem now joins a very small group of players to play at least 20 seasons with one franchise. Retired Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki spent 21 seasons with the team, and the late Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Heat Could Only Afford to Sign 1 More Player to a Veteran’s Minimum

The Heat only have enough cap space to sign a player to the veteran’s minimum, so in addition to Haslem being the ambassador of Heat culture and an invaluable leader in the locker room, he also perfectly fits financially.

With Haslem officially returning, it seems the Heat will once again start the season with a roster of 14 players. Chiang tweeted on Sunday, “Heat roster for next season could now be complete with 14 players, including Haslem. Heat now just about $200,000 away from the tax.”

Last week, while Haslem was still mulling over what to do for the 2022-23 NBA season, the team captain made it clear that he wasn’t going to leave the franchise even if he stopped playing. “Either way, I’m always going to be a part of the Heat family. I ain’t going nowhere, whether I play or not. I’m always going to impact that organization,” Haslem said, per Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman.

Haslem Previously Said That He Wanted to Play 20 Seasons, Now He Will Follow Through on that Promise

Udonis Haslem

GettyMiami Heat legend Udonis Haslem , a three-time NBA champion, cheers his teammates on from the bench.

Haslem joined the Heat in 2003, but he hasn’t been a permanent part of the rotation since the 2014-15 season. Last summer, Haslem once again signed a one-year veteran’s minimum contract ($2.6 million), the same deal he signed for the 2020-21 NBA season, per Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman.

Haslem maintains 6% body fat and continues to train hard each and every day as if he’s still in the starting lineup.

“There’s an expectation here and a standard,” Haslem explained. “For me, that’s always been about everybody else. What do I get outta this? 20 years. If I can get 20 years it’ll be an amazing career for a kid that no one thought would play in the league. All my sacrifices, everything I’ve given, the only thing I’ve asked for is to try to get to 20.”

Haslem said on Sunday that he will finish what he started. “I will play 20 years because I talked about that with my father. It won’t be the same. It won’t be as easy. But the goal remains the same: win. Win a championship. Leave it all on the line and hold your head high when it’s over.”

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