Bam Adebayo clears the air on Haslem's viral F-bomb about Bill Russell

“We knew they were going to be upset."
2023 NBA Finals - Game Two
2023 NBA Finals - Game Two / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

We have a new chapter in the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics rivalry after Bam Adebayo shared a story about Udonis Haslem cursing the name of a deceased Celtics legend. That story has made the rounds of social media, igniting tensions between the fanbases.

During an episode of “The OGs” podcast hosted by Haslem and Mike Miller, Adebayo told a story illustrating just how much Haslem dislikes the longtime rival Celtics.

This story took place after the NBA announced that the whole league was to permanently retire Bull Russell’s No. 6 jersey after the Celtics and NBA icon passed away on July 31, 2022. All NBA players wore a commemorative patch on their jerseys last season to honor Russell, and it was ruled that the No. 6 could not be issued again to any player, playing for any team.

That prompted Haslem to make a fiery speech to his teammates before a game against the Celtics last season.

“We’re in the huddle and Cap [Udonis Haslem] came in there and he gave his pregame speech,” Adebayo shared on the podcast. “So at that time, we were home and you know they retired Bill Russell’s jersey for everybody in the league. So they got No. 6 in our rafters. This man is going off. ‘F— them, f— this.’ Going off. He’s in his pregame speech, ‘Yeah, man. This, that and the third. F— Bill Russell, too.’”

Bam Adebayo and Udonis Haslem said the statement wasn't meant as disrespect for Bill Russell, but more about the Heat and Celtics rivalry.

On the podcast, Haslem clarified after Adebayo’s telling of the story that it wasn’t a personal affront to Russell, but that it had more to do with the Celtics rivalry that Haslem had been a part of during his 20 NBA seasons with the Heat.

“It’s no disrespect to Bill,” Haslem said on the podcast. “I love Bill. He just caught that stray. But will you ever see a Miami Heat jersey hanging in Boston’s rafters? Ever, in life? It was more about the Celtics in the moment. It had nothing to do with Bill. I’ve apologized and repented for that. But at the end of the day, when are we going to ever see a [expletive] Miami Heat jersey hanging in Boston ever?” 

From 1956-1969, Russell won a record 11 championships with the Celtics and became a public advocate for equality and civil rights.

Haslem, 43, spent his entire NBA career with the Heat, where he won three championships. Despite the fiery comments, Haslem made it clear he has respect for Russell and his accomplishments on the podcast.

“I got to apologize, it wasn’t about Bill,” Haslem said on the podcast. “It was just about the rivalry and how I feel about the Celtics. But I will not take back my statement, you will never see a Miami Heat jersey of a Miami Heat player hang in those [expletive] rafters.”

However, the context of the conversation and Haslem’s clarifications failed to make it to social media, where Boston fans were quick to criticize Haslem and Adebayo for their perceived disrespect of Russell.

As one Twitter user posted, “MJ aint play a single game for da Heat and them glazers retired his jersey not a single peep about it from UD but the civil rights activist who passed away u mad about? LMAO.” Celtics star Jaylen Brown liked the post.

“We knew they were going to be upset,” Adebayo said after Heat practice on Wednesday when asked about the viral podcast story. “But I felt like it was a great story to share just because it’s just [Haslem] at his utmost motivating. 

“We all respect Bill Russell for what he’s done for us as players and as Black people and all the stuff he had to go through. Just to clear that air before people start talking about that, we all know we respect that man.”

My take: I agree with Haslem. Like him and Adebayo, I have nothing but respect for what Russell has meant for the league and everything he did for the Black community, but it is ridiculous that the NBA forced his jersey to be retired by all 30 franchises and that no one can wear the No. 6 ever again. We can celebrate and honor his life and achievements in many ways, but that just seemed a bit over the top.