In the words of Pat Riley, Udonis Haslem (@ud40) is more than just a basketball player—he’s the “heart and soul of Miami.” That sentiment rings true clear as ever today as Haslem has not only cemented himself as a beloved hometown figure but also a symbol of hope and inspiration for the community.
Born and raised in the Magic City, Haslem exudes pride both on and off the court for his city.
“You know, I feel like we’re the bottom of the map and everyone is always looking down on us,” he jokes. “But really, we’ve got to grind 10 times harder than anybody to be recognized, get exposure and gain respect.” He notes that those who flock to Miami from outside the country to seek a better life and opportunities typically have more of a hustler spirit than others.
“This is the place where people come to achieve their dreams, whether it be business, sports, anything,” he says.
On the subject of achieving dreams, Haslem of course has another championship win for the Miami Heat in mind.
“Three times in my life, I’ve been able to prove that I was the best at something, part of a team that was the best in the world at something. That’s a huge accomplishment, and I feel like I need to be a part of bringing one more championship to the Heat.”
Aside from success on the court, Haslem finds a sense of pride and accomplishment in his personal life from being a father and husband. Over the past year, he’s connected with his family in an even greater way, and he got to watch his wife, Faith, explore her own endeavors as she partnered with a medicinal cannabis brand, The Flowery.
“Quarantine was make or break for some people, and I’m happy to say that my wife and I have never been closer. That’s how you know what you have is real,” he shares.
Additionally, he’s served as a leader for the community, particularly over the past year when tough times called for someone to lead the way toward positive evolution. Over the Black Lives Matter Movement, Haslem gave a moving speech to the city with Mayor Francis X. Suarez, addressing the political unrest and calling for peaceful protest rather than violence. It was a moving and powerful moment for the city, and everyone took note.
“Sometimes action calls for leadership, and real leaders step up to those roles, whether they are ready or not. I didn’t feel I was ready, and it was an intimidating moment for me,” he recalls. “I had the opportunity to impact the city and people that I love most, and I didn’t want to lose that opportunity or regret passing up on it. At that time, there needed to be a calming voice, and I think I represent all aspects of Miami—the hustlers, the people that started from the bottom, the in-between people and the people that are finding success. I’ve touched and walked in those shoes in my 40 years, and I really try to consider myself a man of the people.”
His passion and love for Miami and its inhabitants are as authentic and pure as it gets. Whatever challenges we’re faced with, we can find solace in the fact that there is a fearless leader like Haslem ready to step in and guide us to the light.
“I follow this slogan that I made up—‘Have enough heart for everybody.’ I think sometimes we get caught up complaining about circumstances we don’t have, why things didn’t go our way. I’ve never been that guy,” he says. “I’m the guy that doesn’t have things go my way and I have more heart. You take something from me, I’m going to have more heart. I want to be part of the evolution of Miami and help bring more amazing opportunities to this city.”
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHED BY BOB METELUS