Thank you, UD.

Udonis Haslem, the heart and soul of the Miami Heat for 20 consecutive seasons, has played his final regular season game of his NBA career yesterday afternoon. It came in winning fashion, as Miami picked up the 123-110 victory against the Orlando Magic.

Haslem finished with 24 points on 9/17 shooting and three 3 pointers, the most points Haslem has scored in a game since November 14, 2009 against the New Jersey Nets. He did all that off the bench, as the team even set an NBA record with 111 bench points.

With his 24 points, he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the oldest player to have a 24 point game at 42 years and 304 days. Haslem was the anchor that lead the team in scoring overall, and it was truly amazing and special to see him get a big role in his last game.

Yes Miami got win the win to finish with a season record of 44-38, but the game was all about UD. Some regular starters, including Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, suited up and started the game to be an active part of Haslem’s day.

Adebayo even gifted the long time veteran with a rocking chair during the pregame ceremony, which undoubtedly put a smile on Haslem’s face right from the beginning. It was hard to contain his emotions as he visibly was teary eye’d at some points, but the OG kept his composure and balled out.

Some casual NBA fans only know of Haslem as a “player coach”; someone who doesn’t ever get any playing time and just cheers on the team. What they don’t know though is that it goes deeper than that.

UD is a Miami icon, he was born and raised in South Beach and he turned his 2003 undrafted talent into a 20 year NBA career; pretty impressive to say the least. He has been loyal to the franchise both on and off the court.

Haslem has stuck around through multiple different major roster changes. From rookie Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal days, to MVP Wade, to “big three” era, to father prime Wade, all the way to the Jimmy Butler led days.

Not only is he a Miami staple on the roster, but he has done countless amounts of community service to the South Florida area. He is a true professional and has a big heart, whether that’s leaving it all on the court with passion and intensity or just as a genuine person and individual.

At his best, Haslem averaged 12.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg back in the 2008-2009 season. From 2004 to 2012 he was in the 6.0-9.0 rebound mark each season. He is also the franchise’s all time leading rebounder. Back when he was at his peak he was a very serviceable role player and big man to have on the team. He was part of numerous deep playoff runs, including being a rotational piece on all 3 of the organization’s 3 championships.

He turned into more of a “player coach” around 2015-2016 to now, and even then his impact was still greatly appreciated.

For Haslem’s latter years, he showed he could be a reliable veteran presence and help mentor younger pieces. Heat Culture stems down from UD, and nobody did a better job at getting young guys to buy into that culture than Haslem. He’s mental and physical toughness has been huge for the development of players in South Beach. He leads by example with his intensity and it has paid dividends.

The OG took the time to speak with Audacy’s AM 560 Sports WQAM this morning following his last regular season game.

Interview rundown [time codes are approximate]:
[02:15] — Went to bed early following last night’s game
[02:35] — “It was fun” on playing in last regular season game
[03:20] — Shooting 3-pointers and 17 times, felt like he was in college or high school again
[04:30] — How he feels having played all 20 seasons for one team, being a mentor and leader helped him be the best version of himself
[06:05] — Keeping the Miami Heat’s culture drama free, importance of communication on all levels, “solution-based team”
[07:45] — How basketball players have changed over the course of 20 years
[08:30] — If he sees himself as a coach or front office guy in the future
[09:20] — Any regrets?  “No regrets at all…”, family keeping him involved, ref in his first game was the ref in his last game
[10:20] — Preparing for the playoffs
[11:10] — Both players & coaches need to communicate about issues

A true leader and voice to have in the locker room and in practice, he never struggled to make his presence known. Haslem has earned respect by not just his teammates, but colleagues all around the league.

If anybody even looked at Dwyane Wade or LeBron James funny, Haslem was always there to do the dirty work and get physical with opponents. He didn’t back down to anybody, and was a perfect “grit and grind” kind of guy when out on the floor. Having someone who has that edge and chip on their shoulder was big, especially in the playoffs.

Nothing came easy against UD, he was a very solid and respectable one on one defender, and even sacrificed his body countless of times with setting charges. Some of those charges came in huge moments as well.

His work is not done just yet, as the Miami Heat will try for one last playoff run before Haslem rides off into the sunset. Thank you for everything, captain.

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