Shaquille O’Neal spoke glowingly about Heat captain and former teammate Udonis Haslem this week, calling Haslem his “hero” and saying Haslem’s number one day should join those of his, Alonzo Mourning’s and Tim Hardaway’s in the AmericanAirlines Arena rafters.
Shaq also promised to acknowledge Haslem, who joined the Heat in 2003 and is the longest-tenured player in franchise history, during Friday’s ceremony to retired his No. 32 and kept his promise, calling up Haslem to the podium.
“You are the true definition of Miami,” Shaq said. “You are the true definition of a championship player.”
Shaq went on to say that Miami’s 2006 title would have never happened without Haslem’s blue-collar contributions.
For Haslem, the moment was special.
“I appreciate that, man,” he said following the Heat’s come-from-behind 115-107 victory over the Lakers.
“Like I said, I’ll always be grateful and forever be indebted to the Big Fella, coming in here and doing what he did, bringing the first championship to my city, instilling confidence in a young guy early on that a lot of people really didn’t believe in or give an opportunity and just helping me kick start my career and to see what it takes to be champion.
“It was his night. I was just happy to be a part of it. He calls me out there and wants me to be a part of it I’m thankful and I’m grateful. He’s done a lot for me and my career. You have one of the greatest players in the game around that time telling people to believe in me you can’t help but believe in yourself.”
Haslem, the team captain, played a big role in Miami’s victory without stepping on the court.
The Heat looked disinterested and lacked energy at the start of the game as the Lakers scored the first 11 points before coach Erik Spoelstra called a time out.
Haslem jumped off the bench and lit into the team.
“The point I was making to those guys was nobody could look each other in the eye and say they were giving their best effort,” Haslem said.
“Every chance we get to win we got to take advantage of it. The guys showed great character. Those stones right there can help us get to where we need to go. Talent is not an issue. We have talent. We got to put it together. We got to be disciplined. We got to be thorough in the way we approach games, we got to bring effort and energy every night and we got to stick to the details.
“Detail oriented teams, it’s no coincidence, those are the teams that are successful in this league. My thing to these guys is to continue to harp on playing attention to the details.”