During previous eras in the NBA, many superstars spent their entire or at least the vast majority of their career with one franchise. The Los Angeles Lakers, in particular, have seen the likes of Kobe Bryant, Jerry West and Magic Johnson all spent their careers with the purple and gold.
These days, with shorter contracts and players being far more open to taking control of their career and their talents elsewhere, that is far more rare. But one player has remained loyal to his hometown team.
The Miami Heat announced that big man Udonis Haslem would be returning for his 20th NBA season in 2022-23, signing a one-year contract worth $2.9 million. This puts Haslem in a hallowed class with Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki as the only players to play 20 seasons for one franchise, via ESPN research producer Matt Williams:
Udonis Haslem will be the 3rd player in NBA history to play 20+ seasons with a single franchise. He joins…
Kobe Bryant (Lakers)
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)
— Matt Williams (@StatsWilliams) August 21, 2022
Haslem is a player that is synonymous with the Heat franchise. Though never a star player, Haslem was still instrumental in the Heat’s three championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013 with his physical style, grit, rebounding, defense and hustle.
These days, while he doesn’t see much time on the court, he is still an extremely respected leader and voice in the locker room. In the past six seasons, Haslem has appeared in just 58 games, but Miami obviously knows the value in him being around the team.
His role is a bit different than that of Bryant and Nowitzki in their 20th seasons with the Lakers and Mavericks, respectively. Though neither were the peak forms of themselves, they were both still major parts of the on-court product, starting and being a big part of the team’s rotation. And Kobe famously would cap off that 20th and final season with a 60-point performance.
Haslem won’t be matching that, but it is still great to see a franchise honor someone who has given so much of himself to the franchise. And the fact that it isn’t a star player who sells tickets shows a lot about what the Heat values.
LeBron James signs two-year contract extension with Lakers
Haslem entered the NBA the same year as Lakers superstar LeBron James and while LeBron can’t match Haslem’s sticking with one franchise, nobody can match the King’s level of productivity this late in his career.
LeBron and the Lakers agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $97.1 million and includes a player option for a third season that could keep LeBron in purple and gold through the 2025 season.
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