With labor talks resuming late last week in midtown Manhattan, there's reason to hope that an end is in sight for the NBA lockout -- and that the 2011-12 season might still happen. Instead of heading off on vacation until a deal is reached, Miami Heat star Udonis Haslem went to work at his 2nd Annual Restaurant Boat Run at Duffy’s Sports Grill North Miami Beach.
After spending some time on the water riding Seahunter boats with some of his foundation’s young clients, Haslem arrived under a police escort with about 30 kids in tow to sign autographs, meet with fans, and spend the afternoon playing water basketball in Duffy’s pool. But before the fun began, he sat down with NBCMiami to discuss everything from his charity, his nomination to the 2012 class of the University of Florida Hall of Fame, and, of course, his thoughts on the NBA lockout.
What inspired you to start the Udonis Haslem Children’s Foundation?
It all started out because I had no idea how to give in the right way. A family friend passed away and they had three kids, so I put them through school. Then, a couple of families at my mother’s church needed school supplies. Then at my stepmother’s church, more school supplies. And my stepmother suggested I do a children’s foundation because we just really wanted to help a lot of families. I wanted to touch different areas of Miami, not just people we knew.
Six years later, into what would you say your stepmother’s idea has evolved?
Back to school is really important. Christmas and toy giveaways, turkey and food at Thanksgiving are also really important, but the thing I think they need the most is school supplies. We do supplies, uniforms, backpacks, haircuts -- whatever they need to start the year off on the right foot. If a kid doesn’t start off on the right, there is a good chance it won't end on the right foot.
How does it feel like to be newly nominated to the UF Hall of Fame?
It’s a huge deal. When I signed a letter of intent, I never thought in a million years that I would be mentioned in the same conversation as the likes of Emmitt Smith and Danny Wuerffel. They are legendary. So, I never envisioned being on the same level as those guys once my career was over at UF. If I had to sum it up, I am just so blessed.
Speaking of basketball, what about the NBA lockout? Is there any hope?
I think so. I am confident that both sides are working to reach an agreement. Players are going to stick together. I am sure the way the season ended last year on such a high note with revenue going up and TV ratings through the roof, the story is already written for next season -- for the Heat, especially. All those guys have to do is sit back and let the season take care of itself. Hopefully everything works out.
If there is a next season, what can Miami fans expect?
A very exciting season. A better Miami Heat team. Hard working. The pieces are there, but for whatever reason, it just wasn’t our time. I take my hat off to the Dallas Mavericks because they put in a lot of hard work. They had a lot of disappointing seasons. Losing to us, and going out to Golden State in the first round after having a perfect record, those guys have had heart-breaking seasons. That’s what people don’t understand. They didn’t just show up and win six games against the Miami Heat. They put in a lot of hard work.
Was it hard to hear so much criticism against the Heat last season, even though you made it to the finals?
At first it was, but it was only because growing up, you are taught teamwork, hard work, sacrifices and those are things as a team we implemented into our season for one common goal: to win a championship. We got close, but still for some reason, we were outcasts.
As a team, you all seem to get along on and off the court.
That is one thing I can say since being with the Miami Heat organization: they have done a good job of bringing in character people. We have never had locker room issues or anything that you hear behind the scenes that could eat a team up from the inside. We have had good guys, and it has all been pretty much smooth sailing.