Udonis Haslem’s Late Parents Etched In Gold by Miami Heat at Jersey Retirement Honor

Published 01/19/2024, 9:36 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

Udonis Haslem had his parents behind him throughout his career. The Miami Heat have acknowledged the contributions of John and Debra Haslem and Barbara Wooten in shaping UD from an undrafted NBA player to the pillar of Heat Culture in a phenomenal way. On the day the team retired Haslem’s No. 40 jersey, they didn’t stop looking back at some memories of Haslem’s loved ones.

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During Friday’s matchup between the Heat and the Atlanta Hawks, they reserved the exact seats in the Kaseya Center the late John, Debra, and Barbara used to sit on to watch Haslem play every game. They pulled those seats from the original location in the arena and “etched their names in gold,” the Heat announcer, Eric Reid, also said, “And now those seats will go home with Udonis and his family.

Additionally, Heat has reinstalled new seats in their place in the name of Haslem’s guardians. That way, Miami will remain connected to the entire Haslem family. In response to this gesture, Haslem said, “That was emotional.” He indeed was moved throughout the tribute. He’d further say, “So I thank those guys once again to be able to have those seats forever with my parents’ names on it. I could have never imagined that happening. I didn’t see that coming.

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Haslem lost his birth mother, Debra, to cancer in 2010. They were estranged when he was young and it was his stepmother, Barbara Wooten, who raised him. His father, John “Deke” Haslem, was his first coach and the reason why UD is one of the longest-playing stars in NBA history. After he passed away in 2021, Haslem admitted he opted to retire since he couldn’t keep playing without his father in the stands. Haslem then lost his stepmom, Wooten, in December 2023.

Heat dug up archived messages from his parents to play over little UD pictures to say, “Here with you today and always.” They effectively left the 3x champion speechless.

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Miami Heat’s gratitude for Udonis Haslem

This is only the surface of what Heat did for Haslem tonight. They gifted him a painting by local artist Disem, who also created the UD mural in Wynwood. They additionally made a $50,000 donation to the Udonis Haslem Foundation that Barbara Wooten founded.

The gifts even made UD forget his prepared speech. “I had a speech written and once I saw or I heard the quotes from my parents and I saw the seats and just the whole thing, I couldn’t even read my speech.” He earned a few chuckles when he said, “The speech was out the window, I couldn’t keep it together. So I didn’t cry, but I couldn’t necessarily read the speech the way I practiced it thousand times. It just didn’t work out that way.

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Next time you’re in the Kaseya Center, look out for the seats dedicated to John Haslem, Debra Haslem, and Barbara Wooten. And try not to cry.

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Written by:

Caroline John

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I was 7 when I saw 'Space Jam' but didn't know till the third rewatch the lead actor is actually a living basketball legend. It was while studying journalism that my friend would go on about the Warriors from Golden State. Keen on athletes' personas outside their arenas, it was Stephen Curry's confidence and philanthropy that drew me to follow the news on NBA pros and explore sports media.
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Edited by:

Tushhita.barua

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