Over his 16 years with the Miami Heat, forward Udonis Haslem has evolved from undrafted free agent to starter to sage veteran dispensing advice to teammates. However, he notes that early in his career, he was awestruck by the presence of team president Pat Riley.
Haslem offered his thoughts in an interview with the online publication The Undefeated. With writer Marc J. Spears transcribing those remarks, Haslem described his feelings of intimidation in connection with Riley. He also spoke of how the latter’s influence has impacted his approach to inspiring others:
“I used to be scared of Pat Riley when I first got here. Not physically scared of him, just intimidated. He is ‘the great Pat Riley.’ But he had that quote that ‘Hard work doesn’t guarantee anything, but without it you don’t have a chance.’ I repeat that a lot to kids. I repeat that a lot when I do speaking events. I repeat that a lot because I believe in it.”
After making the 2003-04 edition of the Heat as an undrafted free agent out of the Unversity of Florida, Miami native Haslem largely came off the bench for his hometown team. That changed the following year, when he became a starter for the next five seasons, though he was limited to 48 starts in 2007-08 because of an ankle injury.
During the 2005-06 campaign, Haslem was part of the Heat’s first-ever title team and remained with them through the Big 3 era from 2010 to 2014. During that period, the Heat reached the Finals every year and captured NBA titles in both 2012 and 2013.
Over the past four seasons, Haslem’s playing time has been limited, having played in just eight games this season. However, his continued leadership off the court and in the locker room remain an invaluable asset for the Heat. He’s yet to offer an indication about his status for next season, but figures to remain as a member of the team’s front office when he does retire.