In hockey, there is something known as a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick.” Named after one of the greatest hockey players of all time, this feat happens when a hockey player gets a goal, an assist, and gets into a fight all in the same game.
The basketball world may have found its own version of this when the Miami Heat’s 40-year-old Udonis Haslem made his 2021 debut. In his first three minutes of action, the veteran big man scored a basket, got a rebound, and got in a fight.
This boxscore created the first-ever “Udonis Haslem Hat Trick.”
Udonis Haslem is a hometown hero in Miami
Haslem is a born and raised Floridian. He was born in Miami and started high school in Jacksonville before returning to finish in Miami, according to FloridaGators.com. Following that, he went to the University of Florida, where he started for all four years.
The 6’8” forward/center went undrafted out of college and played in France for a year. Prior to the 2003-04 season, Haslem signed with his hometown NBA club. In his time in Miami, he won three NBA Championships and played in three more NBA Finals. He also brought a level of toughness to the franchise and is a big part of its famed, “Heat Culture.”
Haslem did not play for most of the 2020-21 season. He was on the team roster but more as a de facto assistant coach than a player. That changed on Thursday, May 18, when he suited up for his first game of the season. His appearance against the Philadelphia 76ers made his 18th season with the team official.
Haslem had quite an eventful three-minute debut in 2021
Haslem entered the game against the 76ers with just under a minute left in the first quarter. He quickly scored, cutting down the lane and finishing on a great pass from fellow aging veteran Andre Iguodala. To start the second quarter, he added to his point total by hitting a long two from the corner.
The triumphant night for Haslem took a turn when 76ers’ backup center, Dwight Howard, threw the former Gator to the floor while battling for a rebound. Haslem got in Howard’s face after the play. The war of words culminated with Haslem sticking his finger in Howard’s face and shoving him.
Referees ejected Haslem for his actions, but the Heat went on to win the game, 106-94. As Haslem exited the Heat’s final home game of the season, the cameras panned to Heat President, Pat Riley.
The famed NBA player, coach, and executive looked like he might be smiling underneath his mask.
The Miami Heat may have brought Haslem back to do exactly this
The Miami Heat organization obviously loves Haslem and, chances are, he will stay involved with the team long after his playing days are over. Getting him into a game this season is a reward for his long-standing loyalty and dedication to the organization.
Knowing how Pat Riley and company operate though, you have to wonder whether Haslem’s night was about more than rewarding a long-time employee?
Miami currently sits 5th in the Eastern Conference standings. This seed gives them the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. The second round is where it gets interesting though. If the seeding stays the same, their second-round opponent would be none other than the Sixers.
Sending Haslem in to stir the pot and get under the skin of the Sixers is a sly, psychological move that smells like classic Riley.
For years with the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and Heat, Riley has been going the extra mile to outfox and agitate his competition. Sending in Haslem against a potential playoff opponent to mix it up with one of the Sixers’ most sensitive players seems like just the kind of crafty chess move Riley would orchestrate to stay a few moves ahead of the competition.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference