MIAMI: Kobe Bryant. Dirk Nowitzki. And now, Udonis Haslem.
Miami’s captain is returning to the Heat for a 20th season, he announced Sunday. It’s a one-year deal worth $2.9 million; Miami extended the offer nearly two months ago, then waited for Haslem to decide between retiring and returning.
Nowitzki played all 21 of his NBA seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant spent all 20 of his seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and when he appears in his next game, Haslem will join them as a player spending at least two decades in the league and all with one franchise.
“I have decided to follow through with what me and my father had talked about, and I will finish what I started and I will play 20 years,” Haslem said, seated at midcourt at Miami High, his alma mater. “I will play this year, because I talked about that with my father and that’s what we said we would do. It won’t be the same. Won’t be as easy. But the goal still remains the same. Win. Win a championship. Leave it on the line and hold your head high when it’s all over.”
Tim Duncan spent 19 seasons with San Antonio and John Stockton spent 19 with Utah.
The 42-year-old Haslem is by far the longest-tenured player in Heat history. He is a three-time NBA champion with Miami and is the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds. This contract is the 11th he has signed with the Heat, and this marks the seventh consecutive summer in which he has signed a deal with the team.
His father, Johnnie Haslem, died Aug. 30, 2021. Udonis Haslem spent about two weeks away from the Heat at the start of camp and the preseason last year while grieving, and he said not having either of his parents still alive forced him to reevaluate many things in the past year.
“Even at 42, you look around and you don’t have both of your parents, you can be confused,” Haslem said. “It can be confusing. ... But never have I been more clear than I am now. I just had to clear the cobwebs out.”
Haslem was the oldest player to appear in each of the last two NBA seasons. He got into 13 games with Miami last season, averaging 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds.
He has had 162 different teammates during his Heat career. And this season the NBA might include players who weren’t even born when Haslem entered the league. Haslem made his NBA debut on Oct. 28, 2003 — three weeks before Jalen Duren, the No. 13 pick in this year’s NBA draft, was born.
Haslem has averaged 7.5 points and 6.6 rebounds in his first 19 seasons, playing sparingly the last six years. But the Heat have insisted his role remains vital in practice and in the locker room, annually finding ways to keep luring Haslem back.
This contract will take Haslem past the $70 million mark in on-court earnings. After the coming season, Haslem said he hopes to join the Heat’s front office and has mentioned his desire to possibly join the ownership group in the years to come.
“This ain’t no (expletive) charity case. This is a sacrifice, sacrificing for the next generation,” Haslem said. “As the bearer of Heat culture, I take it serious. It’s not a game. It’s not a joke. I know people talk about it. People, they may have this stigma of what it is and what it’s not. But it’s real. It is real. The culture is real. The culture has saved very many guys, not just me.”