Udonis Haslem isn’t ready to hang it up just yet.
Haslem announced on Friday that he will return for an 18th season with the Miami Heat.
“I am the Miami Heat. The Miami Heat is me,” Haslem said, via the Miami Herald. “Just understanding what my value is and understanding that these guys really still value what I bring to the table. With that being said, another opportunity to win another championship in Miami.
“I really didn’t understand how impactful I was to these guys until I had the opportunity to be in the bubble and spend as much time as I had to spend with these guys. I really understood that these guys really respond to me, man. That was huge for me.”
Haslem hasn’t had the impact on the court that he once used to for several years now. The 40-year-old appeared in just four games last season, and has played in just 44 total games over the past four years.
He is expected to sign a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Heat before the 2020-21 season starts on Dec. 22.
“He’s just an incredible rock of stability and leadership and mentorship — and that’s at all levels,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said during the NBA Finals last month, via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It’s not just to our young players. It’s to our veteran players. And he provides just great guidance and mentorship to this head coach as well.”
Will this be Udonis Haslem’s final season?
Haslem has been with the Heat since he first stepped into the league in 2003. The Miami native will now be the oldest player in franchise history.
Haslem will become one of just six players in NBA history to play for a single franchise for at least 18 seasons, too. Dirk Nowitzki holds the record with 21 seasons in Dallas. Kobe Bryant spent two decades with the Lakers, Tim Duncan was in San Antonio for 19 years, John Stockton played for the Jazz for 19 seasons and Reggie Miller stayed with the Pacers for 18 years.
While many, given his limited playing time over the past several years, expected that Haslem would want to walk away, he’s not ready to quit — or put a limit on his time in the league either.
“Spo told me don’t answer that question,” Haslem said when asked if this was his final year, via the Associated Press. “Spo said we’ll continue to talk about it.”
With the way the COVID-19 pandemic altered last season, Haslem said he wasn’t able to get the sendoff he envisioned and couldn’t share the season with his friends and family — both things he wants before he calls it a career.
And, having come just short of winning his fourth NBA title, Haslem has unfinished business.
“I didn’t want to go away like that,” Haslem said, via the Miami Herald. “I didn’t want to go away telling these guys that I could help them win a championship and not really doing it. I think everybody made a commitment. Jimmy made a commitment, Bam made a commitment, everybody made a commitment and we didn’t get it done. The job is not finished. We got work to do.”
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