MIAMI (AP) — Udonis Haslem has spent his entire NBA career in the shadows of others, without complaint.
He was front-and-center Tuesday night.
Haslem was among three enshrined into the Miami Sports Hall of Champions, joining U.S. women’s national soccer coach Jill Ellis and former University of Miami and New Orleans Saints star Jonathan Vilma at Marlins Park. Haslem is now the longest-tenured member of the Miami Heat, going into his 14th season with the team when training camp starts later this month.
“When I look at the list of people that came before me — Michael Irvin and Dan Marino, so many people — to be mentioned in that category is an amazing accomplishment for me,” Haslem said. “It’s an amazing honor. I’m humbled, blessed, fortunate and just thankful. Never in a million years did I think I’d be right here, right now.”
The three-time NBA champion still cherishes his childhood memories that stem from watching his heroes like Irvin and Marino — both previous Sports Hall inductees — play at the Orange Bowl, which was on the same plot of land where Marlins Park now sits. Haslem used to sell sodas in the stands at the Orange Bowl, a fundraiser for his basketball team at Miami High.
He told that story Tuesday with a confession.
“For every $5 we made, I think about $3 made it back to our coach,” Haslem said. “The other $2, we figured it out.”
Vilma told a story about how he was moved up to varsity basketball at Coral Gables High and how Haslem’s Miami High team beat them handily. Vilma went on to focus on football, winning a national title with the Hurricanes in 2001 and then a Super Bowl with the Saints.
“For someone like myself, born and raised in Miami, growing up in Miami, this is one of those accomplishments … that mean the most,” Vilma said.
Ellis — who led the U.S. to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup title — is a South Florida resident with ties to many coaches at the University of Miami and said she was humbled to be recognized.
“I’m always amazed at how sport manages to bring people together,” Ellis said. “As wonderful as the memories have been for me on the field, it’s surpassed by the friendships I’ve been able to make.”
Also honored Tuesday with a lifetime achievement award was Jimmy Evert, the father of 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert, who accepted the award on her late dad’s behalf.
“The best person I’ve ever known,” Chris Evert said.
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