Miami Heat to honor Dade County O.G. Udonis Haslem with an entire seating section

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Udonis Haslem will go down as one of the most beloved players in Miami Heat history. He may be second to only Dwayne Wade, and that’s saying something considering some of the stars who’ve played for the franchise. While the Heat haven’t exactly made Haslem’s swan song season one to remember, the organization has announced how they plan to honor the three-time NBA champ by dedicating section 305 in Miami-Dade Arena to the long-time Heat veteran.

Normally, we see teams honor superstars or players that once led them to titles as dominant scorers. Haslem never averaged more than 12 points per game in a season or postseason. But if you ask anyone in Miami what his contributions have meant to this team on and off the court for the last 20 years, they’d tell you his leadership and accountability have been priceless. There’s a reason he’s so well respected around the association. Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks even shouted out Haslem recently, showing respect to the vet while simultaneously sneak-dissing Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.

“Those guys are trying to get back into the league. They’re not trying to hone in on a guy and be a vet. A real vet is like Udonis Haslem.”

Haslem has not played more than 16 games during an NBA season since 2015-16, when he logged minutes in 37 of 82 contests. It’s similar to what the Golden State Warriors have done with Andre Iguodala of late, but he hasn’t spent his entire career in one spot. The one constant in that Miami locker room since 2003 has been Haslem. Pat Riley’s been an executive with the organization for some time now, and Haslem was around long before Eric Spoelstra was named head coach.

Being a Miami native makes this even more special for all parties involved. The fan base loves Haslem for what he’s done over the years, as he’s been the team’s enforcer in a league that pretty much phased that role out years ago. Haslem’s never been one for nonsense, as was evident during his sideline altercation with teammate Jimmy Butler last year. Luckily cooler heads prevailed in that situation. In a league where so many dudes “act” tough, it’s refreshing to still have guys who don’t need to fake it.

The big man is dead in basketball until further notice

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights guard Heru Bligen drives against Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey.

I have a question for both college and NBA basketball fans: When was the last time a team won anything with a low-post big man as their No. 1 option? Purdue’s Zach Edey is going to take home a treasure trove of hardware, and lucky for him, he’ll be at his place of residence to make sure no one poaches any trophies off his doorstep. The Boilermakers became the second No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, and congrats to Fairleigh Dickinson.

If you thought the upstarts couldn’t get more eccentric, let me introduce you to the Knights from Teaneck, New Jersey. Coach Tobin Anderson called his shot the day before the game, and his center-free rotation swarmed, frustrated, and harassed Purdue all night. You could just tell from the Boilermakers’ inability to get separation that the game was going to come down to a clutch play at the end.

Forward Sean Moore delivered said play, cashing a three with just over a minute left to give the Knights a five-point lead. The final 60-plus ticks were agonizing for both fan bases before Fairleigh Dickinson sealed the win with a pair of free throws to end the scoring at 63-58.

This March has been unlike any other as it’s the first time a No. 1 and No. 2 seed have both lost in the opening round. Arizona, whose big men also fumbled away post feeds and iso touches, fell to Princeton on Thursday, and if your bracket is still intact, I have a few personal effects I’d like you to bless.

So, congratulations to Fairleigh Dickinson on the win as well as upsetting Gradey Dick as the entity most likely to evoke a dick joke that my editors will cut.

Don’t believe in the return of the big man until a non-unicorn big wins something

For all the hype Nikola Jokić and Joel Embiid get, neither has been to the NBA finals. You could talk me into Drew Timme’s importance to Gonzaga when the Bulldogs played Baylor in the title game in 2021. Yet, the last team to finish atop the heap in March with a true low-post big man as the player of the tourney was North Carolina’s Sean May or UConn’s Emeka Okafor in 2005 and 2004 respectively. Kentucky won with Anthony Davis in 2012, but he’s been pushing back against playing center for his entire pro career.

You have to go back to 2005 or 2006 in the NBA. Tim Duncan was the finals MVP in 2005, and 2006 was the first Heat-Mavericks finals. Dwyane Wade won finals MVP, but Shaquille O’Neal was still such a force that the offense revolved around the threat of him around the hoop.

We’ve reached the point in basketball as a sport where centers can’t be limited to just paint skills. If a big can’t space the floor, handle the ball, or play make, he’s reduced to blocking shots and catching lobs.

The closest thing to an old-school franchise center in the NBA is Embiid, and the jury is out because it remains to be seen if he can be the focal point of a title run. Jokić is plodding, but the passing is so advanced that labeling him as a center is an insult. Be that as it may, his most consistent postseason success has come with Jamal Murray as a 1A in crunch time.

Pundits have called Giannis Antetokuonmpo a modern-day Shaq, but that’s not fair. The Greek Freak is a unicorn in the true sense of the term, which isn’t simply a big man with guard skills, but rather a big man who moves like a guard.

Shaq was one of one, but even he moved superbly for a person of his size. That’s why I’m not sure O’Neal could get played off the court in any era. Usually, he was the one forcing personnel changes. We haven’t seen that kind of gravitational low-post force since Duncan, and I don’t think we’re going to ever again.

Basketball is not only too skilled of a sport for one-note big men, but relying on another position to feed you the ball is ludicrous. Every entry pass to Edey was met with two to three defenders, and even though he finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds, Purdue’s approach was antiquated.

Why am I saying this? I find that I remember things better when I write them down, so the next time I go to make a grand proclamation (or fill out a bracket), I’ll think thrice about backing a team whose offense depends on a big man.