How do you sum up the impact of a career that spanned two decades, three championships, and dozens of mouthpieces? When it comes to Udonis Haslem, at least, the Miami Heat are planning a four-day celebration to honor one of the greatest players in franchise history.
“Udonis is loved and respected in this organization,” said Michael McCullough, the team’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. Haslem announced last summer that he would be returning to the Heat for a 20th season with the only team he has ever played for in the NBA. “We’re trying to go out of our way, thinking about how we can properly say thank you and recognize what it means to this organization.”
The team has ultimately decided on ‘4 Days of 40,’ which is being called “a fun first-time fan campaign celebrating Haslem’s unique journey and lifelong connection to the city of Miami,” according to a press release.
Events related to the campaign will begin on March 23 with the launch of an ongoing series of digital content including articles and videos and will be linked to the franchise’s various social media platforms. On March 24, the organization’s in-house apparel brand, Court Culture, will release “The UD Collection” merchandise. During Miami’s game against the Brooklyn Nets on March 25, the team will host “UD Night,” which includes the dedication of “Section 305” (in honor of one of Miami-Dade County’s area codes) as a “fitting tribute to native son of the city.”
The campaign culminates March 26 during the team’s annual Miami Heat Family Festival, which will feature Haslem-themed activities and experiences.
Haslem’s playing time has decreased in recent seasons but the campaign highlights an impact that extends beyond the hardwood. Growing up in South Florida, he attended Miami Senior High and the University of Florida before starting his NBA career in 2003 with his hometown team, he was largely regarded as a local hero throughout his career life.
“There’s only been three players in NBA history that have had a 20-year career,” McCullough says, “but he’s the only guy to do it at home. His history here in Miami is special.”
In a recent interview with The Miami Herald, Haslem explained that he is looking for a unique role with the team after his playing career ends after this season, one that involves minority ownership while helping to bridge the gap between players and the front office.
“I want to be the guy that connects the dots between the locker room and the front office, connects the dots between the front office and the owners. Sometimes you can miss things in that area,” explains Haslem.
Haslem, however, also said in that article that it was his choice that any ceremony in his honor take place after the season. But McCullough is quick to explain that the campaign would not affect Haslem’s current role as a player, adding that the events are separate from any future jersey retirement ceremony. “That’s the grandeur and the circumstance… these four days again, it’s really more like if this was like a backyard barbecue or a house party, sitting around and swapping Udonis stories… the final stamp on a great career. “
Jennifer Alvarez, the team’s Senior Vice President of Brand and Chief Creative Office, said, “He’s the only player that’s still here that helped [the Heat] find all three of our champions. He was a culture bearer for the newer teams, which no one can deny, and he was invaluable to the organization. We are extremely grateful for everything that “UD” has done for us and the Miami community.”
Haslem’s current role has been a sticking point for some fans who see his playing time diminished and believe he is taking a valuable roster spot. However, Haslem and his teammates have long argued that Haslem’s influence extends far beyond the hardwood, and is vital to veterans and young players alike.
If Haslem’s long celebration might be seen as something by some of his harshest critics, it’s not a view shared by McCullough or the rest of the front office.
“For 20 seasons, Udonis has been an embodiment of Heat culture and, since he was an undrafted free agent until today, his presence and contribution to the franchise is immeasurable,” says McCullough. “Four days is not enough.”