Udonis Haslem’s heartwarming reasons for returning for 20th and final season with Miami Heat

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Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem announced on Sunday that he is coming back for a 20th season with the team.

The 42-year-old also shared the heartwarming reasons for his decision to play on.

Haslem has been playing for his hometown team since 2003. After going undrafted in 2002, the University of Florida product signed with Miami in the 2003 offseason.

He has proven to be a key piece for the team, helping it win three titles. The big man was a full-time starter when Miami won its first-ever championship in 2006. When the Heat claimed a two-peat from 2012 to 2013, he primarily came off the bench.

In recent years, he has barely seen any playing time. Some may be perplexed as to why he opted to extend his NBA career. After all, the front office reserving him a spot on the roster significantly limits its flexibility to improve the team with other players.

However, the organization clearly values him for his off-court contributions, especially as a veteran mentor, locker room presence and community leader.

Haslem will undoubtedly play a key role in Miami’s pursuit of another championship. Last season, it came close to returning to the NBA Finals, losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

This season, the Heat will run it back with almost all of the core players they had in the 2021-22 campaign. But it remains to be seen if team president Pat Riley still has some aces up his sleeve to find ways to bolster the roster via trade.

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Orel writes all day, everyday. During the day, he writes and does research to complete his master's degree in education. During the night, he writes about the league he has loved since the '90s: the NBA.