Udonis Haslem back with Heat after father's death: 'Today was a good day'

·2-min read

For the first time in nearly two weeks, Udonis Haslem was back on the court with the Miami Heat.

Haslem, who is the league’s oldest active player, rejoined the Heat on Sunday for the first time since the death of his father.

“Probably the toughest time I’ve ever had to encounter. The biggest challenge that I’ve ever faced,” Haslem said, via The Associated Press. “I have no problem saying that my father is and always will be my best friend. So after losing my mother 12 years ago, I just thought I had my father forever.

“Everything you see on the basketball court — all the catchphrases, the fire, the passion, the ability to get people to follow you and believe in themselves — that’s all my dad, man. That’s who he is. That’s who he was.”

Haslem’s father, Johnnie, died on Aug. 30. He was 70.

“It’s going to be hard moving forward without him, but I’m prepared,” Haslem said, via The Associated Press. “My parents raised me and I’ve been through enough where I know I can weather any storm I’m in.”

‘Our gym felt great with his presence’

Admittedly, Haslem hasn’t done much for the Heat on the court in the past few seasons.

And, at his age, that kind of makes sense.

Haslem has played in just five games over the past two seasons, and hasn’t played more than 16 games since the 2015-16 season. He made it into just one game last year, and actually got ejected after two minutes.

Yet his impact with the organization goes far greater than what he could provide them on the game — which is why he signed his 10th contract with the team over a nearly two-decade span.

“I had to get back to a point where I could help these guys, still be a leader, still be this captain and still be the guy they expect me to be,” Haslem said, via The Associated Press. “That was the journey. It wasn’t easy and I’m still working on it. But today was a good day.”

And, now that he’s back, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he could see a huge difference at practice.

“We wanted to give him his space and respect, so the communication was going mostly through me and UD so he wasn’t receiving 100-plus text messages a day,” Spoelstra said, via The Associated Press. “And we’re thrilled to have him back with us. It’s great for us and good for him. Our gym felt great with his presence, his spirit, his voice.”

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