The high points of the friendship between Miami Heat teammates Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade have seen them celebrate all three of the franchise’s NBA titles. However, that tight bond was also on display when Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union once interrupted an international vacation to console a grieving Haslem following the death of his mother.
Shandel Richardson of The Athletic delved into the Haslem-Wade friendship that’s existed since their rookie years with the Heat in 2003. He offered Union’s recounting of how after Haslem’s mother died of cancer at the age of 53 in the summer of 2010, Wade immediately made plans to return home.
“We flew right back to Miami to be by UD’s side,” Union said. “They are friends who chose to become family. Neither had ideal childhoods and could easily use that as an excuse to be less than great friends, husbands and fathers. They are the personification to breaking the cycle and they keep other in check.”
Yet even after Wade and Union returned, Richardson points out that Haslem found it too painful to immediately discuss the ongoing sadness:
“It took months before Haslem could discuss what he endured during the time leading up to his mother’s death. He finally confided in Wade, telling him he thought about removing her from life support weeks earlier but decided against it each time it surfaced.
“‘He needed to get it out and we talked about it,'” Wade said. “‘He needed to talk about how hard it was for him and how it affected him.'”
The difficult childhoods and similar backgrounds that Union spoke of were part of how the friendship has developed such strength.
“They both had children at young ages and grew up in homes where their mothers struggled with drug addiction,” Richardson wrote. “Jolinda Wade was a heroin addict and spent some time in jail while her son was developing into an NBA prospect outside of Chicago. Debra Haslem’s problems left her homeless at one point, causing her son to rely mainly on stepmother Barbara Wooten, now the head of his children’s foundation.”
Though Wade has developed into a Miami icon during his long tenure with the Heat, Haslem is an actual native of the city and seemingly just as revered. It’s quite possible that when Wade retires at the end of this season, Haslem will follow in his footsteps. That would mark the end of their basketball careers, but certainly not their friendship.