Meet the Heat

With February finally here, the NBA season will soon hit its halfway point and hold its annual, All-Star Weekend in Houston from February 15-17. Contrary to what the name implies, All-Star Weekend is not only a time for the most popular players in the NBA to shine, but it also gives good, young talent a chance to show their skills to a national audience. Just like All-Star weekend, the Miami Heat has an array of fledgling ballers and instrumental role players outside the Big Three who are not only essential to the team’s success, but invaluable to the community.

Ray Allen
The future Hall-of-Famer has been every bit the three-point marksman the Heat looked for when they signed him in the summer. Coming off the bench for the first time in his 16-year career has not fazed him, and the respect that other defense players have for his deadly aim has opened up more running lanes for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to aggressively attack the basket with. However, the sharpshooter is just as active off-the-court as he is around the perimeter.

The ten-time All-Star has served as a spokesperson for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a non-profit organization that raises money for black students and provides scholarship money for its 54 partner schools, as well as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which funds Type 1 diabetes research. In 1997, a young Ray Allen founded the Ray of Hope Foundation to assist sports-related programs in offering children from low-income families productive activities to help them realize their potential and keep them off the streets.

The 37-year-old’s amazing jump shot only became so after thousands of hours of practice, but his borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder is what pushes him try and perfect the blemishes in his game. Allen is not a one-trick pony. He is an avid golfer who plays with a +1 handicap, and impressively acted as top high school basketball recruit Jesus Shuttlesworth in the 1998 Spike Lee movie He Got Game, which also featured Denzel Washington.

Udonis Haslem
A Heat fan-favorite, Haslem is tied with Wade for the longest active tenure with the Heat since his regular season NBA debut as an undrafted free agent with the Heat in 2003. Ever since entering the league, Haslem’s signature tough, physical style of play and stingy defense has proven to be lethal to the Heat’s opponents. Haslem threw the Dallas Maverick’s Dirk Nowitzki off his game in 2006, and was arguably the biggest reason the Heat won the NBA Finals that year. On November 21, 2012, “UD” became the Heat’s all-time leading rebounder and the first ever undrafted player to lead a franchise in rebounding.

The defensive stalwart consistently shows his love to the community through the Udonis Haslem Children’s Foundation, which he founded in 2005. The foundation’s goal is to provide programs that facilitate youth development, and every August the foundation lives up to this cause by giving school uniforms and supplies to homeless, abused, and fostered children. In August 2009, Haslem went to Jamaica to distribute athletic gear, clothes and school supplies to young students.

The six-foot, eight-inch tall father of three sons recently became engaged to former University of Florida sprinter Faith Rein. Haslem wants to be the mayor of Miami someday, the city he was born and raised in. Haslem credits the most influential person in his life as his late brother, Samuel Wooten, who died from cancer in 1999 at age 36.

Mario Chalmers
Starting point-guard, “Super Mario” Chalmers is another key defensive player for the Miami Heat and currently leads the Heat in steals with 1.6 per game. His defense was his trademark during his collegiate career at Kansas and earned him the 2007 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The 2008 NCAA Championship’s Most Outstanding Player heads up the Mario V. Chalmers Foundation, which assists athletic and educational programs geared toward children, and also helps raise money for breast cancer research.

Almario Vernard Chalmers comes from a family that has basketball flowing in their veins. Mario’s father, Ronnie Chalmers, won two state Alaskan basketball championships coaching his son Mario and his school Bartlett H.S. Ronnie also served as the Director of Basketball Operations at Kansas while Mario played there and won a national title with the Jayhawks. Two of his cousins, Lionel Chalmers and Chris Smith played in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively.

Shane Battier
Battier, 34, was an invaluable part of the Heat’s championship run last season. He is a versatile and scrappy veteran swingman who does all the little things on the court that most casual NBA fans do not pay attention too. He is always the guy diving on the hardwood to secure a loose ball or drawing easy offensive fouls. His meticulous preparation before each game helps him learn the tendencies of the opposing team, especially the man he is assigned to guard. This enables him to get a feel for when his opponent’s shot selection and ball-handling movements, resulting in occasionally very easy-looking steals and blocks. What he lacks in athleticism he replaces with sheer hard work, making him the quintessential role player every playoff team covets.

The Battier Take Charge Foundation provides development and educational resources for underprivileged youth in Memphis, Houston, Detroit and Miami. The foundation raises money through golf tournaments and karaoke events.

The Sporting News named Battier its seventh smartest athlete, and Battier is highly interested in sabermetrics, a science that analyzes specific aspects of baseball through a plethora of statistics that reflect each player and team’s in-game activity. When the “Batman’s” NBA career is finished, he plans to expand his foundation, start a public speaking tour, and be his children’s basketball coach.

Mike Miller
Mike “Slim” Miller is another swingman who can heat up at the three-point line and consistently drain long-range jumpers. From his playing days in Memphis, Miller earned a reputation as an offensive “jack-of-all-trades” player. His decent rebounding and playmaking are great compliments to his excellent three-point shooting. This combination of skills sometimes allows him to be a momentary spark off the bench when the Heat struggle. He may not light up the scoreboard off-the-bench the same way fellow swingman Ray Allen can, but his understanding of basketball fundamentals gives him a well-rounded offensive game.

The Mike Miller Foundation’s goal is to encourage children to have a healthy lifestyle while aiding disadvantaged and disabled children in Tennessee, South Dakota, Florida and Minnesota. Annual golf and poker tournaments raise funds for the foundation. The May 2007 NBA Community Assist Award winner and his wife established the Mike and Jennifer Miller Endowment Foundation, which supports the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Parade magazine recognized Miller as one of their most generous celebrities, considering that he established the endowment foundation by donating one million dollars.

Interestingly, Udonis Haslem was Miller’s college teammate and roommate at University of Florida. After his playing days are over, Miller wants to be a coach or a general manager. His wife, Jennifer, was a volleyball player at the University of Florida and together they have three children.

While the Heat may be having somewhat of a rough season compared to their championship performance last year, the team’s performance off the court is always exemplary. Now that you have been introduced to some key players beyond the Big Three, you are even better equipped to root the home team on to another Finals victory this year!

Jonathan is a contributing monthly writer to the Good News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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