Every Miami Heat game played this year is one less chance to witness the greatness of Dwyane Wade. As games disappear from the schedule like figures in Back to the Future photos, the reality still hasn’t fully set in that Wade will soon no longer perform that glorious shot fake multiple times per week. Knowing this, Heat fans are taking every opportunity they have left — including tonight’s 8 p.m. game against the favored New Orleans Pelicans — to appreciate Wade before he’s gone.
And that’s exactly how it should be. Wade is not only the greatest athlete Miami has ever seen, but one of the top NBA players of all time. Heat fans just need to make sure while they’re saying goodbye to Wade, they don’t forget about another three-time NBA champion who has given the Heat everything he’s had over his decade-and-a-half career: Udonis Haslem. He’ll be missed just as much as Wade.
While Wade has made it clear he’s retiring after this season, Haslem has been more coy about his intentions. Comments point toward him riding off into retirement alongside his favorite teammate and now business partner Dwyane Wade, but nothing is certain.
If the Miami High graduate plays at all, it is news at this point. He’s been on the court for all of 19 minutes and scored nine points this season. No longer is he the rebounding-machine enforcer he played during championship runs next to Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade. Haslem is an extension of the coaching staff now, a bridge to the Heat’s past, a font of knowledge for others. And he plays those roles as excellently as he did his 30 minutes a night on the court.
Haslem sits on the Mount Rushmore of Heat players. He’s played in 846 games during his NBA career, putting him near the top for the franchise. Beyond stats, however, is what Haslem has meant to the franchise in terms of grit, dedication, hard work, and, above all, class and accountability.
If you played for the Miami Heat anytime since 2003, you played with Haslem. If you didn’t do things right, you were compared to him. If you slacked off, you answered to him. If you had something to say to a coach or teammate and needed an intermediary, you went through him. Haslem was the engine that made the Heat go and the chassis that kept the team together, both in terrible 15-win years and during historically talented championship runs.
Never forget what Udonis Haslem has done for Miami or the Miami Heat. Like Wade, he won’t go too far when he’s done playing. But unlike Wade, he may not announce an expiration date on his playing days.
Appreciate Udonis now as you do Wade because Haslem has been just as important to the Miami Heat.