Miami Heat

Udonis Haslem compares Bam Adebayo to ‘the young UD,’ says he has ‘the mold of a lifer’

As Heat big man Bam Adebayo celebrated his 22nd birthday Thursday, there were many who went to social media to wish him a happy birthday.

But one message especially stood out, and it was from Heat mainstay and team captain Udonis Haslem.

Haslem, who is still deciding whether to return for a 17th NBA season or retire, went to Instagram and shared of a picture of himself and Adebayo laughing during a team event. The message from Haslem underneath the photo was long, and it revealed just how much he appreciates Adebayo as a person and values his potential as a player and leader.

Haslem wrote: “I’d be lying if I said I’ve had or could ask for a better young fella!!! As much as you nag, aggravate, and antagonize the hell out of me, you make it a joy to come to work everyday. The way you see the game. The way you approach the game. Who you play for. Why you play. And how you reach your goal of getting there all falls in line with the young UD. Although different styles we not that different at all kid.

“Been looking for someone to take this s--- and run wit and from where I’m sitting it’s you! You have the mold of a lifer!! It was never more evident then watching you finish the season the way you did last year... Never complained. Just lead by example no matter the circumstances mentally or physically. This bout all the good s--- you gonna hear from me til next year so enjoy it kid. Lol. We gon have a lil fun for ya bday then it’s back to verbally abusing you. Lol. HBD young fella!!! Idk how old yo a-- really is but it’s still a blessing to see another year!! Lol. Love ya lil bro/son!!!”

Adebayo averaged 8.9 points on 57.6 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 23.3 minutes while playing in all 82 of the Heat’s games last season. He is expected to be Miami’s starting center this upcoming season, which is his third in the NBA.

When speaking about the decision he still has to make about his NBA future, Haslem said in April: “There is a responsibility to guys like myself and Dwyane [Wade], just like there was a responsibility to Brian Grant, there was a responsibility to Eddie Jones, there was responsibility to Alonzo [Mourning] to make sure that when they walked away, the culture and the Miami Heat way and the things that we preach and the things that we truly honestly believe in has the next caretaker of it.

“We have guys that are making their way toward that position. But for me, it would bother me to walk away knowing it hasn’t been 100 percent solidified who that guy would be and how it would be taken care of moving forward.”

Thursday’s Instagram post shows Haslem believes Adebayo has the qualities to take on that role when he retires. Haslem said last season that he thinks Justise Winslow also has the personality to be one of the Heat’s next leaders.

The addition of Jimmy Butler this summer also provides the Heat with an established star, who can serve as a leader.

“The kind of playing with that edge where it’s like any moment you can get thrown out, but you’re not going to get thrown out,” Haslem said of Winslow last season. “But you play with that edge. That controlled rage, kind of compete and competition thing. I can see that in him. Obviously, to me I feel like that’s a skill and that’s a talent because a lot of people don’t play with that. A lot of people don’t play with that edge. I feel like I just relate to that.

“To me, I was him and who I am now. It’s a process, but I see him being able to be that guy just because the guy who leads has to be the guy that plays like that. You can’t lead if you don’t put it on the floor, and he puts it on the floor every night so guys will listen to what he says.”

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.