Udonis Haslem, the oldest player in the NBA: he never plays, but he is key in the Miami Heat that seeks the title

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At age 40, he played just four games this season, but his relevance in Erik Spoelstra’s team is total. And he’s going for his fourth crown.

When NBA players revolutionized the sport in the last days of August due to a boycott they made by leaving the league to focus on claims against racial inequality, many names emerged among those who led the meetings among the basketball collective. One of the most recognized by the players themselves, totally removed from the flashes – today he practically does not play – was Udonis Haslem.

Among the sporting cruelties that Covid-19 caused, one of them was to force Vince Carter to retire off the court. The departure of the man from Atlanta, an NBA icon of the late 90s and much of the 2000s, left Haslem, who turned 40 this past June, as the oldest player in the league.

Unlike what happened with Air Canada, the pandemic could not with him. First because Miami Heat, his team, qualified for the playoffs. Second, because it considers that it still has rope. Although in this campaign he has had to play only four games.

Whether he is sane or not, Haslem is on campus and the secret is that he has a specific weight greater than any other player. Ni Jimmy Butler, he crack of the team, he is at his height. It would be unfair, anyway, to compare him and anyone else with OUT.

Udonis sits at the table of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh Y Shaquille O’Neal. And it is all a saying. Without approaching the talent of that poker worthy of the Hall of Fame (Shaq already integrates it), it became a symbol because, basically, he is Miami.

He was born there, grew up there, went to high school and even college in this city in the state of Florida. There she also suffered the great blow of her life: Samuel’s passing, his half brother 18 years older, the one who put an orange ball in his hands and the one who took care of him with his mother (Udonis’s mother faced difficulties with drugs) until cancer took him in 1999, with 36 years.

Eventually, Haslem only left that piece of American soil when he finished his higher education and found no equipment. It was curious: after standing out at the University of Florida, in tests with the different teams they considered him too short (1.98m), he did not show his rebounding ability, they saw him out of shape and he ended up going unnoticed in the 2002 draft.

Overweight, he landed in France. There, away from everything and everyone, Hit bottom: He stopped training properly, stopped eating more than once a day and only ate at McDonald’s because French food was horrible.

There, according to Haslem in the last hours and reproduced by the AP agency, he was his partner Corey Crowder who helped him. In Chalon-sur-Saône, this other American sheltered him and convinced him to go back and find a place in the NBA.

Eight months after that experience, with 40 kilos less, Haslem was playing the game of rookies (newbies) of Game of stars with his teammate Dwyane Wade. “Without Corey I wouldn’t be here,” UD said of his former partner. But it was also Miami, his Miami, the one that saved him.

David Thorpe, coach and trainer, made it possible with a training of iron discipline and a peculiarity: balls inflated to the maximum, that sting like rabbits and that he threw at the hoop so that Udonis caught all the rebounds before they hit the ground.

The Heat made him a contract and for his second season in the NBA, the power forward was already a starter. At the end of the third, I left champion with Wade, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille in command of Pat Riley.

He never left the team again. The years passed, the players passed, and Udonis Haslem was present, he did not stop playing. Today he is Miami’s historical leader in defensive, offensive and total rebounds. Never a non-drafted had managed to be a leader of a statistical item in a franchise.

Become team leader with 17 seasons on the back, it was he who took the voice when the players rallied after the boycott that started as a lone Milwaukee move. As reported Yahoo SportsHe looked at his former teammate LeBron James and said: “What are you planning to do? You are the face of the league and here what you say will be done. “

Al coach Eric Spoelstra his rings do not fall to praise him. After the third playoff game against the best team in the regular season, Milwaukee (which Miami crushed), the manager acknowledged: “Actually it was he who controlled the group“He was talking about how the power forward led vocally before a fourth quarter that his team won 40-13 for the win.

“He inspires us constantly,” the pivot acknowledged in attention to the press Meyers Leonard. “She is always there for us, she always encourages us,” added the point guard. Goran Dragic. “He tells us to be focused, he grabs me and says ‘don’t let us lose’. He played with several greats and that he gives me that confidence is a lot.”

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