Udonis Haslem unveils fascinating story, credits Jae Crowder’s father for his NBA career

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Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem has served as a team leader for a long time, a role he learned from the father of one of his current teammates, Jae Crowder.

Haslem has spent 17 seasons in the NBA, but was originally an undrafted free agent who traveled to France to continue his basketball career. It was there where Haslem met and bonded with Corey Crowder, Jae’s father.

The advice and motivation offered by the elder Crowder ultimately resulted in Haslem beginning his career with the Heat in 2003 and becoming an integral part of the franchise, a fact that Haslem has never forgotten.

“If Corey Crowder wouldn’t have been there, I wouldn’t be here,” Haslem said this week at Disney. “I wouldn’t have lasted. I’d have (messed) it up.”

In the midst of Haslem losing 50 pounds to compete at the professional level, the elder Crowder noticed that Haslem clearly had talent that made him an NBA commodity.

Corey Crowder remembers times during practice with the French club when Haslem would get put on the second team to face the rest of the starters, “and he’d beat us by himself,” Corey Crowder said.

“That’s when I told him, ‘You’ve got to get to the NBA,’” Corey Crowder said.

Haslem eventually got a tryout with the Heat in 2003 and made the team, eventually playing a role in all three of the Heat’s NBA titles.

When the younger Crowder was playing for the Utah Jazz, his father attended a game against the Heat, sitting in the front row. Haslem noticed his former teammate, which led to an emotional reunion.

“Udonis comes over and gives me a hug,” Corey Crowder said. “Then he calls D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) over and says ‘I want to introduce you to Jae Crowder’s dad. I’m in the NBA because of this man right here.’ Now that, to me, was the biggest compliment that anybody could ever pay a person. What I was doing for him, way back when, was not for me. It was for him.”

The younger Crowder is enthusiastic about the fact that he and his father have now both had Haslem as a teammate.

“To be in a locker room with UD and to hear him and listen to him and try to grow with him and talk to him, it’s been very pleasing to me,” Jae Crowder said. “And it’s unbelievable to hear how my dad helped him over there. Everything’s coming full circle for me and my family, and my dad, he loves it.”

Haslem’s time on the court is minimal now, though he still serves as an important voice in the locker room as well as a mentor for younger teammates. Without the support of the elder Crowder, however, it’s clear that Haslem might never have attained such a role.

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Brad Sullivan is a freelance writer for HeatNation.com, having been an avid fan of NBA basketball for more than four decades. During that time, he's watched the Heat evolve from gestation period to expansion team all the way to three-time NBA champions. He'll follow their quest toward again reaching those lofty heights, and do so by offering some perspective along the way.