Heat’s Udonis Haslem returns for 20th season – Reading Eagle

The Miami Heat veteran is all in for the final season.

Udonis Haslem announced Sunday that the 2022-2023 NBA season will be his last after planning to retire this summer. He broke the news on the last day of his basketball and cheer camp held at Miami High School, his alma mater.

One of the main reasons behind Haslem’s decision to return was his father, Johnny, who died last August. Johnny and his son have always discussed the goal of playing NBA basketball for two decades, and now Haslem plans to follow through on that plan.

“I decided to do what my father and I talked about,” Haslem announced. “I will finish what I started, I will play for 20 years. I will play this year because I talked about it with my father and that is the root. It won’t be the same, it won’t be as easy, but the goal is still the same. Win and win the championship.”

Haslem, 42, will become the NBA’s oldest active player and enters his 20th season in the league, all with the Heat since going undrafted in 2003 out of the University of Florida. He is the organization’s all-time leading tackler, second only to Dwyane Wade in tackles, and ranks in the top 10 all-time in numerous Heat statistical categories, including blocks, steals, sacks, field goals and attempts.

His career averages are 7.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, but his impact extends far beyond the hardwood.

In addition to being a key member of each of Miami’s three championship teams, Haslem has also embodied the signature culture of the Heat organization, making sure everyone on the roster lives up to the high standards set by team president Pat Riley, and that is present in all the building.

The precedent he set in the building greatly influenced other Heat stars such as Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herra.

“How he helps me prepare for the fight is unreal. He’s been through it all and seen it all,” Adebayo told Yahoo Sports in May. “And in practice, he’s one of the toughest guys you’ll run into. It can do nothing but make me better. You have to pay attention when he speaks because you know it comes from a desire to see us all reach our heights.”

Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra have repeatedly noted how important Haslem has been in carrying the DNA of those title-winning teams into the current junior core that has reached the Eastern Conference finals in two of the last three seasons.

Although his minutes per game have declined over the past few seasons, Haslem has served as almost another bench coach, always animated and ready to give his team a stern talking to when needed.

“You couldn’t ask for a better, more dedicated leader to continue to be involved and help improve our program,” Spoelstra told Yahoo Sports. Players think they are willing to do whatever it takes until they are asked to sacrifice. UD optimizes what is a real winner in every way.”

Haslem isn’t expecting much in terms of strikeouts in his 20th season in the league, and he doesn’t really want to. Seeing his teammates succeed is enough of a farewell tour for him.

“It was a sacrifice, willing, open, without asking for anything in return,” Haslem said. “Watching Bam Adebayo play and get a contract and Caleb Martin get a contract and James Johnson and those guys, that’s the farewell tour I want. That’s what I get out of it, it’s my pleasure.”

While he’s not quite ready to hang it up just yet, there’s no doubt that Haslem’s No. 40 jersey will be hanging from the rafters at FTX Arena when it’s all said and done.

And he knows exactly what he wants to do when he finally retires, continuing to contribute more to the Heat’s culture and give more to the organization he’s already dedicated two decades to.

“After this season is over, I want to continue to be a part of the organization at the highest level,” Haslem said. “I want to sit next to Pat. I want to sit next to Andy [Elisburg]. I want to sit next to Mickey [Arison], and continue to lead at this level. That’s what awaits me next.”


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