Udonis Haslem voted ‘heart and soul’ of Miami Heat by his teammates

Miami’s Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem during last season’s media day. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Udonis Haslem has been one of the most respected members of the Miami Heat for many years.

Haslem’s teammate proved that by voting the 15-year veteran the winner of the team’s Backbone Award, which “specifically goes to the player who represents that heart and soul of their team.” Each winner was voted on by their teammates

The award is part of the National Basketball Players Association’s Voice Awards and was announced today. The NBPA created the Players’ Voice Awards to provide a platform for the players to vote for each other in categories that express their interests and passions.

Haslem, who turns 38 on June 9, has played all 15 years with the Heat. He is the longest tenured captain in Heat history, a title that goes back to 2007-08. Last year was voted a tri-captain along with Goran Dragic and James Johnson.

Several players have described Haslem as a mentor and he has been tutoring young players for many years. With his playing time dwindling – he played just 72 minutes in 14 games last season – he has taken on an unofficial role of player/coach.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and president Pat Riley have praised Haslem’s professionalism, citing his value to the team despite a diminished role on the court.

“I tried to mentor all of our guys,” Haslem said this month at the opening of the new Brightline train station in downtown Miami, a venue that includes the latest Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagel locations he helps operate. “I’m going to try to mentor everybody. I’m going to give 100 percent to Hassan (Whiteside). I’m going to give 100 percent to (James Johnson). I’m going to give 100 percent to Justise (Winslow). Some guys are going to react a certain way and some guys not. You can’t focus on that.”

Haslem and Dwyane Wade are the only two players who have been a part of Miami’s five trips to the Finals and three titles. Haslem has not decided if he is returning for the 2017-18 season, although he has posted videos of his workouts making some wonder if that is a hint that he is preparing for the season.

“I’m always gonna train. That’s not going to stop,” he said. “When you get to this stage of your career and your life, you either do it or you don’t. You can’t really turn it on and off, it becomes a lifestyle. When you’re 30 and 30-plus, it becomes something that is part of your routine. It’s not like I can stop, start, stop, start. You can’t do it like that. So, I’m always going to train and stay in shape.”

[Miami Heat ties to Finals not limited to LeBron James]

[How Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union are caught up in Twitter account scandal linked to Sixers’ executive Bryan Colangelo]

[Shane Battier will remain with Heat front office after withdrawing name from Pistons search]

[Mailbag: Were injuries to blame for Heat’s first-round playoff exit?]

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