The captain: Miami’s Udonis Haslem now an 18-year player


MIAMI — Udonis Haslem can finally say that he has played in 18 NBA seasons.

The Miami Heat forward got into a game for the first time this season Thursday night, checking in with 59.3 seconds left in the first quarter of the team’s regular-season home finale against Philadelphia.

Haslem, who turns 41 on June 9, became the oldest player to appear in a game for the Heat and the oldest to get on an NBA floor for any team this season. Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao, 38, was the oldest to play in the NBA so far in 2020-21; the next-oldest to play this season was Miami’s Andre Iguodala, 37.

Haslem got a layup with 2.3 seconds left in the quarter, putting Miami up 38-20 in the early going. It was his first basket at home since Nov. 12, 2019.

At 40 years, 338 days, Haslem was 269 days older than Juwan Howard was when he made his final appearance with the Heat on April 17, 2013. Haslem has not said if he will consider retiring this summer; the Heat have told him that he would be welcomed back in his unique role — as a captain and behind-the-scenes leader who doesn’t play — if he’d like to remain on the active roster for at least another year.

“I just take it one day at a time, and we’ll figure it out,” Haslem said earlier this month. “The goal now is to win a championship. And then, you know, we’ll go from there. I can’t really think past today. I’ve been told just take it one day at a time and you know when I get to the summer, that’s when I think about that.”

His on-court role has diminished greatly in recent seasons. Thursday marked only his 15th appearance in the last three seasons, just his fifth in the past two seasons.

But the Heat continue signing him to contracts, mostly of the one-year variety — the one-year deal he signed for this season was his ninth contract with Miami in those 18 years — because they greatly value his leadership and voice in the locker room. Haslem is often referring to as a keeper of the culture that team president Pat Riley, managing general partner Micky Arison and coach Erik Spoelstra have instilled over the years.

“He is the bedrock,” Spoelstra said. He had been committed to getting Haslem into at least one game at some point before the season ends, and decided Thursday was the time.

Now that he’s officially an 18-year member of the Heat, and only the Heat, Haslem becomes the sixth name on the list of players who have spent that much time with one franchise. Dirk Nowitzki spent 21 years with Dallas, Kobe Bryant 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Tim Duncan spent 19 with San Antonio, John Stockton spent 19 with Utah and Reggie Miller spent 18 with Indiana.

Before Thursday, Haslem last played for Miami on Aug. 14, 2020, during a game inside the restart bubble at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Thursday marked his first appearance in a game at Miami’s home arena since Feb. 22, 2020.

Haslem is one of only two players — Dwyane Wade being the other — to appear on all three of Miami’s NBA championship teams. Haslem is the only player to be with the Heat for all six of their Eastern Conference championships and is the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder.

In addition to holding the team rebounding record, Haslem — a Miami native who is a lock to have his No. 40 jersey retired one day by the franchise — ranks second behind only Wade on the Heat lists for games played and minutes played, plus is seventh on the team all-time scoring list.

Haslem was undrafted after his college career at Florida. He played professionally in France for one season before getting a tryout with the Heat in 2003, remaining with his hometown NBA club ever since.

A sign of his longevity: He’s had 150 teammates in Miami during his 18-year career.

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