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Udonis Haslem: Heart and Soul

HEAT Forward Udonis Haslem cannot be defined by numbers on a piece of paper. He is not defined by points or rebounds accumulated. To understand his worth to this Miami HEAT team, you must look beyond the box score to the team itself. You must listen to his teammates’ and his coaches’ words about him.

“Udonis, I would describe him as venerable,” Shane Battier said. “He’s one of the guys, when he speaks, you listen, because what he says you know is pure. It’s not coming from a place of bias, and he is a team-first guy. So, when he speaks, it’s usually passionate and it’s the truth.”

Udonis Haslem takes a shot

“He’s been in more playoff battles arguably than anybody else in that locker room,” said HEAT Head Coach Erik Spoelstra. “And he’s played his biggest in the biggest moments, when you need him, when there’s adversity. In the 10 years that I’ve gotten to know UD, I know that he’s not defined and cannot be defined by numbers. He’s defined by winning plays and a toughness that most players don’t have.”

“Udonis doesn’t talk too much,” Wade said. “When he talks, he’s not just talking to hear his voice. We understand that this guy is all heart. This is one of the total team guys. When he steps up and says something, everyone listens.”

Haslem entered the league undrafted and earned a spot on the HEAT 10 years ago. From there his hard work, sweat and commitment earned him the much respected position of team co-captain. Earlier this season, the 32-year old Haslem added his name to the top of the HEAT record books by becoming the team’s all-time leading rebounder with 4,807. He is also the first undrafted player in NBA history to become his team’s all-time rebound leader.

Now in his ninth postseason appearance, the Miami native continues his work under the boards and in the paint, where he fights for rebounds and positioning. Haslem battles, pushes and gives his everything for his team. That’s not an easy task when the 6’8”, 235-lb forward routinely faces opponents who are taller and heavier than him. But take a look at Haslem when he steps on the floor – he’s covered in padding: knee pads, underpadding. Expecting heavy contact in every game, he powers through and although a bloody eye may happen every so often (see 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals), Haslem is grateful for his playoff opportunities.

“I definitely don’t take being in the playoffs for granted. A lot of guys don’t have this opportunity to be around the type of team and players I’ve been around, and I’m thankful for it,” he said.

This season, after shooting 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from the field in the First Round vs. Milwaukee, battling a tough Chicago Bulls front court in the Second Round and scoring 17 points in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Haslem contributes to the team’s success in many ways.

“My teammates understand, people who know the game of basketball understand. It’s not about scoring,” said Haslem. “It’s the ways you can impact the basketball game. Most of the time, it’s on the defensive end. Most of the time, it’s rebounding. Some nights my role changes.”

Whatever it takes to win, Udonis Haslem gladly and willingly will accept that challenge.

To see more from tonight's TIPOFF magazine, download the PDF here!