You can’t put a price on loyalty just like you can’t attach a dollar amount to time spent with a loved one in the final years of their life. Giving up money has earned Haslem two NBA championships and the team’s all-time rebounding record, but those things are secondary to the time he enjoyed with his mom before she passed away.
Debra Haslem died of cancer at age 53 in July 2010. After overcoming so much in her life, she was and still is Haslem’s biggest inspiration.
“Just her strength for what she went through,” Haslem said. “She was able to come full circle after drug addiction and homelessness. To battle back and to make it back — you know, a lot of people get into that lifestyle and they just never come back. They fall into that lifestyle and that’s the end of them.
“But she came back, rehabilitated herself and got a job, cleaned herself up and really got involved with me and my sisters’ lives. She really created a bond with her kids and that’s big. She’s my hero for that.”
Debra was clean for 10 years before she passed away. It was the best 10 years of Haslem’s life and Debra got to watch her son play for the Heat. Of all the current franchise leaders in rebounding, only one has done it for the team in the city in which he grew up. Haslem’s teammates, coaches and the team’s executives attended Debra’s memorial service.
“I will never forget Coach Riley coming into Liberty City,” Haslem said. “That will never be forgotten. That will always be in the back of my mind. I was thankful he was there.”
Thanks cuts both ways.
“We’ve just worked out to be a pretty good fit for each other,” Haslem said.