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With the end of the NBA Finals, the process for getting ready for the next season begins. Anthony Davis already announced he plans on resigning with the Lakers, and there are so many other intriguing free agents like Fred VanVleet, Montrezl Harrell, Danilo Gallinari, and more. But the one that needs to be talked about:

Udonis Haslem!

Going undrafted in 2002, 40-year-old Udonis just wrapped up his 17th year with the Heat, 13th playoff appearance, and 6th Finals appearance. With the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season, barring retirement, Haslem is going to be a free agent.

Throughout Haslem’s entire career, he hasn’t averaged more than 12 PPG, and only averaged double digit points in 4 of his 17 seasons, with the most recent being in the 08-09 season. But UD was one of the most important pieces in the Miami Heat’s success, legacy, and three championships.

Haslem won’t drop 30 points a night like Dwyane Wade, he won’t dominate entire seasons like LeBron, and he won’t shoot lights out like Bosh. But you can surely count on Haslem to make the biggest plays and an incredible impact on the game.

In the early parts of his career, Haslem played anywhere from 23-37 minutes a game. He started all but one game in the Heat’s 2006-2007 season, but is never mentioned by people outside of Miami. Wade and Shaq dominated, but Udonis Haslem rounded out that big three.

With his mouthpiece always hanging out of his mouth, there wasn’t a moment on the court that Haslem wasn’t giving 101% effort. He never did that superstar jog or walk up the court. He would always be sprinting, getting to every loose ball, fighting for rebounds, and outplaying his opponents with a combination of strength and wit. He hustled every second that he was on the court.

As the years went on, Haslem’s minutes and usage rates went down. Over the past 5 seasons, he’s only played 81 games, the same number of games he played in the 05-06 season alone. But one thing hasn’t changed about him as the years went by.

His heart.

Even at the latter stages of his career, Haslem continues to go all out, he’s an instant spark plug, and he’s always ready to play. He’s the embodiment of an enforcer in the NBA. The intensity never faded.

Not every player is cut out for the NBA, and at first it seemed like Udonis Haslem was one of those players when he played overseas. But he kept working his game and brought to Miami something that will never be forgotten. He was the physical as well as emotional presence that every team needs.

He’s always been the energy and vocal leader for this Miami Heat team for the years he’s been there. That was seen in this past playoffs in the bubble. Numerous times Haslem was shown yelling in the middle of the Heat huddle firing up and inspiring his teammates.

Haslem has a tremendous understanding of the game of basketball and his role on the team, and he plays it perfectly. At this point in his career, he’s more of a mentor and coach than a player on the Heat team. And with the youth that the Heat had on their roster this year, Udonis Haslem is more essential than ever. Within the entire NBA, and basketball community as a whole, Haslem is one of the most respected individuals.

Whatever Udonis Haslem decides to do this offseason, his legacy will live on forever in this Heat franchise. UD!!