Haslem: undrafted to leading rebounder
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called him his favorite player.
Former Heat center Alonzo Mourning said there was maybe one other player he wanted below the basket on his team fighting for a rebound.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade called him the Mayor of South Florida.
They are talking about veteran Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who became the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder last week, surpassing Mourning. After the Heat’s 110-108 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday, Haslem has 4,819 rebounds – all with Miami.
He is the only undrafted player to lead a franchise in career rebounds and is fourth in rebounding among all undrafted players, behind Moses Malone, Ben Wallace and Brad Miller.
“There’s no hiding it. Everybody knows he’s my favorite player and his story is one of the most special stories,” Spoelstra said. “It’s somebody who came from our own backyard in the toughest of communities in Miami. To not only make it out but then to be an absolute example for young kids to aspire to and to be the core value face of our franchise, it’s pretty amazing.”
That Haslem, a Miami native, is the Heat’s all-time leading rebounder is not the entire story. How he maade it from there (300-pound undrafted rookie) to here (two-time NBA champion, rebounder, defender) is a significaant portion of his story.
Haslem finished his four-year career at Florida in 2002 and was a third-team All-American in 2001. However, he was not drafted and put on more than 50 pounds following his senior season. In 2002-03, he played a season in France’s pro league and transformed his body. He lost nearly 70 pounds, giving up pork and a red meat.
“One thing I did was I looked in the mirror and made changes and improvements about myself instead of hanging my head and getting down on myself,” Haslem said. “I’m hard on myself. I was self-motivated and pushed myself.”
The Heat invited him to summer camp in 2003, and some players and coaches had trouble recognizing him.
“I didn’t even know for a couple of days it was Udonis Haslem from Florida,” said Wade, a rookie that summer after the Heat … [For more on Haslem goes from undrafted to Heat's leading rebounder, click here.]