Heat’s Udonis Haslem details ‘unbelievable’ journey to immortality

Haslem will be the sixth Heat player to get his jersey retired.

Former Miami Heat player Udonis Haslem in front of the Kaseya Center.

It is going to be a special night for the Miami Heat organization and Udonis Haslem as his jersey and number will be retired up to the rafters and immortalized in eternity. He will join the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, and Tim Hardaway, but there is a difference between Haslem and the names mentioned.

There is a very little chance Haslem makes it into the Naismith Hall of Fame, but the impact he has had with the Heat on and off the court has been insurmountable. He spoke to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald and spoke about what it means for him to have this type of journey to get his jersey retired.

“I think it’s huge for not just me, but for my family and obviously for the city of Miami,” Haslem said. “Being a hometown kid and not doing it the traditional way. Having to go through a lot of adversity, not being drafted, not being maybe what people would consider a household name or whatever.”

As Haslem said, his path has been hard to get to the legend status he is at with the Heat. He went undrafted out of the University of Florida in 2002 and playing in 20 years later, he has been a staple to the team along with winning three championships and appearing in seven NBA Finals.

Haslem believes his story will relate to most people

Miami Heat's new member of the front office Udonis Haslem in front of the Kaseya Center.

There is no doubt that is story is inspirational, especially since not every person wishing to be an NBA player will reach the level of all-time greats. Haslem said to Chiang that there will be “more kids” looking at his story and being able to relate to it.

“So for me, I think, there are going to be more kids that are going to look at my story and be able to relate to my story because everybody can’t be a LeBron James or a Kevin Durant,” Haslem said. “Most people are going to have to be somebody like myself, who has to overcome obstacles and has to work for a lot of things.”’

Haslem has the most rebounds in Heat history with rebounds and ranks among the team in all-time leaders in games played (second), minutes (second), and field goals made (fifth). The legend would have never thought when starting this journey that his jersey would be retired.

“It’s still crazy. I’d be lying if I said when I first started this journey years ago when I was picked up by the Miami Heat after going undrafted that I saw myself having my jersey retired 20 years ago,” Haslem said. “It’s just a testament to focusing on being your best version, coming to work every day, putting your best foot forward, working to be the best version of yourself, not accepting mediocrity, not accepting what people’s version of what you should be or what you should do, and always just believing in yourself.”

Haslem always has a chip on his shoulder

While some people are tired of hearing about the so-called “Heat Culture,” Haslem defines that very phrase that has been present within the team since Pat Riley first stepped into Miami. Riley is in love with players like Haslem who have an enormous chip on their shoulder which he said was his main drive to become the player he's being celebrated as Friday night.

“I mean, I would have never guessed it. For me, though, I already had a chip on my shoulder. But I think [going undrafted] created an unbelievable chip that I just never lost,” Haslem said. “Even when I won a championship, I never lost that chip. I never forgot that I was undrafted. There was always a guy who I saw that was drafted in my class or something like that. I think that drove me more than anything.”

After retiring from the team, Haslem has a front office role with Miami as Vice President of Basketball Development.

Miami will come back home for a short one-game stint Friday as they face the Atlanta Hawks in what should be another celebratory night as they retire Udonis Haslem's jersey. The team is 24-17 on the season which puts them sixth in the Eastern Conference.