MIAMI — Forward Udonis Haslem was born in Miami, center Bam Adebayo wasn’t. But as the 25-year-old Adebayo prepares for his sixth season with the Miami Heat, he hopes to follow in Haslem’s footsteps as a leading community presence and voice in South Florida.
“I consider it a home away from home just because the community took me in,” Adebayo said of Miami on Saturday during a break at his fourth annual youth basketball clinic at Riviera Preparatory School in Kendall. “The fact that I go to the inner city and the kids have my jersey on. People seeing me out in the community and telling me, ‘Thank you for what you do in our community and what you do in Miami.’ Just stepping in that type of Udonis Haslem role. Even though he’s from here, I feel like the city accepts me like UD.”
Adebayo, who was raised in North Carolina, spent the last few days using his platform to make an impact around Miami. Before hosting a basketball clinic for campers ranging from third to 12th grade on Saturday, Adebayo visited critical care patients at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital on Friday.
“It’s one of those things where as basketball players, we can change somebody’s direction in life just by speaking to them and having a couple words,” Adebayo said. “You can be their biggest motivator and not even know it. So just having the opportunity to go there and talk to kids and see what type of stuff they go through, it definitely puts things in perspective.”
Haslem, who has not yet announced whether he’ll return for a 20th NBA season, is in a unique position. He has spent his entire NBA career with his hometown Heat, winning three NBA championships and establishing himself as the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder.
Adebayo still has more than a decade of seasons to catch up to Haslem, but he’s already the second-longest tenured Heat player on the current roster after Miami drafted him with the 14th overall pick in 2017. While some of it is out of Adebayo’s control, he hopes to spend his entire NBA career with the Heat like Haslem has.
“If I could, I would,” said Adebayo, who is due $30.4 million next season in the second year of a five-year, $163 million max contract extension he signed with the Heat in 2020. “Just to have that opportunity to be around this community for my whole career. A lot of the community has seen my grown up. Going from a random 14th draft pick to being a cornerstone in this organization and to become something bigger. It’s just one of those things that’s dope when people grow with you.”
But Adebayo’s name has come up in trade speculation this offseason, as the Heat has spent part of the summer pursuing disgruntled Brooklyn Nets superstar forward Kevin Durant. Though the Nets would have interest in Adebayo in a Durant trade, the Heat has not included Adebayo in offers for Durant and is so far unwilling to do so, according to multiple league sources.
It should be noted that Adebayo is not currently eligible to be included in a trade with the Nets because of NBA salary cap rules, unless the Nets trade Ben Simmons to the Heat or another team. That’s because of the Designated Rookie Extension rule: A team cannot have two players acquired via trade who were signed to that type of extension such as Adebayo and Simmons.
As a rising star who was on the cusp of making his first All-NBA Team and was voted to the All-Defensive Second Team for the third straight year this past season, it’s not surprising that the Nets would be interested in Adebayo. But it’s telling that the Heat covet Adebayo so much that they have not yet made him available in trade discussions for Durant.
“It’s the faith they got in me,” Adebayo said when asked what it means for the Heat to keep him off limits in offseason trade discussions up to this point. “I feel like they know what they have. You get a guy who’s hard-nosed, who’s going to get it out the mud, who’s not going to quit on his teammates. It’s just mutual respect. I feel like a lot of teams want me, but it’s just a respect thing. Also, it’s Pat [Riley] believing in me, it’s Micky [Arison] believing in me, it’s Andy [Elisburg] believing in me that we can make that next step to bring this city another championship.”
Between Adebayo’s hospital visit on Friday afternoon and his youth basketball clinic on Saturday, he spent Friday night playing alongside close friend and Utah Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell at the Miami Pro League. The Heat are also known to have interest in Mitchell, who the Jazz reportedly just recently began listening to trade offers for.
“Getting to play in the Pro Am, it’s fun,” Adebayo said. “It’s for Miami, it’s for the community. And then just to have one of my best friends, Donovan, come join us was a dope experience.”
Artist Vic Garcia, who is a Miami native, has been able to watch Adebayo’s impact up close as a partner in his community work who accompanied him to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital on Friday.
“I definitely think it’s important for someone of that magnitude to give back to the community and really inspire these kids to really dream big,” Garcia said.
Profits made from Adebayo’s youth basketball clinic will benefit the BAM Foundation, which has a mission “to change lives for single mothers while changing the future chances, choices and challenges for children.”
Haslem has been labeled as Mr. 305 because of the strong reputation he built in Miami. What does Adebayo hope to call himself toward the end of his NBA career?
“Mr. 305 2.0,” Adebayo said with a smile.