Udonis Haslem on career with Dwyane Wade: 'We had a chance to grow together'

On Friday, Udonis Haslem's No. 40 jersey will be raised in the rafters when the Miami Heat host the Atlanta Hawks at the Kaseya Center.

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat
Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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On the recent episode of "The OGs" a new podcast hosted by Miami Heat legends Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, UD talked about his legendary career as he is set to become the sixth member of the Miami Heat to have his jersey raised in the rafters of the Kaseya Center on Friday. They also covered a variety of topics including being a pro athlete in Miami, Charles Barkley, the rivalry with the Boston Celtics, playing with Dwayne Wade, and what's next for Haslem and the Heat after he retires.

Udonis Haslem said 20 years in the NBA is a unique milestone. He's his own biggest fan, and when nobody but friends and family thought he would get to where he is, his jersey retirement will be time to finally celebrate himself, as he mentioned that opportunity to do so is rare.

Haslem Makes NBA History

On October 28, 2003, an undrafted power forward stepped onto the court as a starter for the Miami Heat in the NBA. Fast forward nearly two decades and Udonis Haslem has crafted an extraordinary tale and narrative of longevity and perseverance in the world of professional sports.

Haslem has now become part of an exclusive club, as he is the 10th player in NBA history to achieve the remarkable feat of playing 20 seasons in the league, but for one team, a rare accomplishment. UD will become the sixth member of the Heat to have his jersey retired in the rafters of the Kaseya Center on Friday. 

UD, who has played in 879 regular-season games for Miami, falls second only to Dwyane Wade (948) in terms of appearances in a Heat jersey. Notably, Haslem holds the record for the most total rebounds in Miami's history, with an impressive 5,791 rebounds. Despite never being selected as an NBA All-Star or making it onto any All-NBA team, Haslem's influence on the Heat and the wider Miami community, both on and off the court, has rightfully earned him the monikers Mr. Miami, OG, and Captain.

Crediting Opportunity As A Reason For Success

In addition to his basketball career, Haslem is actively involved in philanthropy and holds a position as a business executive. He has expressed his aspirations of becoming a part-owner of the Heat after retiring, citing his two-decade impact on the team as a testament to his deservingness of such an opportunity. 

The Heat have the most undrafted players in the NBA. It's a testament to the organization, which UD emphasizes in this episode, that Miami is a team that's best at developing players and creating opportunities for them to carve a space for themselves in the league, him being one of them. 

Always striving for excellence, Haslem is teaching valuable lessons on and off the court. You don’t have to be a superstar to be a winner. With experience, wisdom, and knowledge, he reflected on how being undrafted in the NBA shouldn’t create this existing narrative that they are anomalies in the league.

At the end of the day, drafted or undrafted, it's about players getting the chance to show what they can contribute to a team on and off the court, but having the mentality and motivation to do so. Haslem stated, that being different and creating your path instead of living like someone else or how someone else says to, is how to achieve success in both the NBA and life. Haslem believes that his story could serve as motivation for the future of Heat culture and in the community.

"If I tried to live life the way people told me was a successful life, I’d never be here," Haslem said passionately. "Just because you come into this league undrafted doesn't mean you have to take an undrafted mentality."

A Shout Out To Charles Barkley

Although UD had an impressive college career, aiding the University of Florida in securing four consecutive NCAA tournament invitations, he faced disappointment when he went undrafted in 2002. The rejection had an impact on him, but his spirits were lifted when he heard former NBA player turned commentator Charles Barkley discussing him on television, providing him with much-needed encouragement. Haslem reflected on the podcast about the effort he put into preparing for the draft, only to witness his name being overlooked, until Barkley changed that.

"I just remember that night like it was yesterday," Haslem said with pride. "Shout out, Chuck, man. And I remember seeing Charles Barkley saying, 'I'm shocked that Udonis Haslem hasn't been drafted.' For me, I think, even in that moment, that was a breath of fresh air. When you ask somebody like Charles Barkley, Hall of Famer, one of the top players to ever play the game, to speak your name and even know who you are on that particular night, I think that went a long way for me. But at that time, I was a little down, obviously, and just going through the things I was going through. But that lifted me up instantly."

The Haslem and Wade Connection Comes Full Circle

Throughout his time with the team, Haslem not only played alongside some of the NBA's greatest players but also uplifted them. In the recent podcast episode with Miller, UD opened up about his long-time friend and teammate. When Haslem joined the Heat, he wanted to ensure the longevity of their team, especially when Miami selected point guard Dwayne Wade as the No. 5 pick in the 2003 NBA draft.

Reflecting on their early years with the Heat, Haslem shared his initial concerns about starting Wade at point guard, as it would deviate from his natural position. Miami needed Haslem, their enforcer, to protect their young cornerstone player from the physicality of the game. Haslem explained that it was his responsibility to ensure Wade's safety and well-being.

He also revealed how he and Wade formed a strong bond. They spent the summer together, following a routine of morning runs, weightlifting, basketball workouts, lunch, and pick-up games. This consistent routine allowed them to develop a deep connection, which ultimately led to three NBA championships.

UD stated on The OGs when talking to Miller, that he not only fulfilled his duty of protecting D-Wade but also has enjoyed evolving into a mentor and player-coach during his final years with the Heat.

"We had a chance to grow together and connect," Haslem said. "With Dwyane, I always understood how talented he was."

Fast-forward to 2024, Wade's Hall of Fame banner was recently raised in Miami’s arena, and Haslem's jersey retirement is scheduled for this weekend. Wade and Haslem will forever be remembered as two of the greatest players in the history of the Heat franchise. What's exciting is that things have come full circle, as the NBA veterans are leaving their mark in the city of Miami together again.

Haslem Epitomizes Heat Culture

Always striving for excellence, Haslem is teaching valuable lessons on and off the court. You don’t have to be a superstar to be a winner. Being different and creating your path instead of living like someone else or how someone else says to, is how to achieve success. Haslem stated, "If I tried to live life the way people told me was a successful life, I’d never be here."

When thinking of who's the biggest representative of "Heat culture," it's Udonis Haslem, and he believes it too. A native of the 305, he's established various businesses throughout the city of Miami, and through his efforts, the Heat organization continues to be one of the best in developing its players with the values and principles of accountability, hard work, and going the extra mile. 

UD has displayed perseverance and leadership from his first game in a Heat uniform to the last, approaching his time in the NBA with competitiveness, and a warrior-like mentality. Haslem has undoubtedly left his mark, being one of the most notable veteran role players the league has ever seen. Heat President Pat Riley and Head Coach Erik Spoelstra said it best, "Udonis is Miami."