Q&A: Udonis Haslem on Being A Miami Business Mogul, NBA Enforcer and Fortnite Dad
After another late night driving for Lyft, about ten missed calls from @Alf954 and @byBrianGoins, and countless messages in the Miami Heat Beat DM group chat on Twitter, with the collective worried that the professional screw-up had overslept for an interview with a Miami Heat hometown legend, I was on my way to downtown Miami.
As part of his partnership with food and beverage operator JFC Miami, 15-year Heat veteran Udonis Haslem officially opened up an Einstein Bros. Bagels on the ground floor of MiamiCentral, downtown Miami’s station for Brightline, Metromover, Metrorail and future Tri-Rail service, on Friday, Aug. 17.
At the ribbon-cutting event on Wednesday, I got the chance to talk with UD for a couple minutes – somebody I’ve watched and admired since I was a kid.
The man who handles his business.
Alex Toledo: I’ve seen all the businesses you’ve been opening up here in Miami. I know you’ve got some Subways and Starbucks, and now you’ve got Einstein’s Bros. Bagels. What does it mean for you to be opening up businesses out here, and what does it mean for your community?
Udonis Haslem: For me, it’s just being able to provide jobs for my community. When I look back, I got my brother-in-law working here, I’ve hired people that went to school with my father, and I’ve hired one of my best friend’s sisters. You know for me, this just started with the opportunity to provide jobs for family and friends. You know, to put them in positions where they can grow, and they don’t need me to grow. Whether I’m here today, tomorrow, or 20 years from now, this thing that I’m starting to build up will live on, and they can continue to build on that. My main focus is putting other people in a position to be successful.
Toledo: When it comes to generational wealth and being able to help with multiple families around the community, I’m guessing that’s a big deal for you, too?
Haslem: Oh, it’s huge, man. It’s huge. I mean, people are going to think that I’m investing back because of the financial gain. Everything is a process. I’m not making money off this thing right now, right away, you know. If I make money five, six years down the line, we’ll see. But right now, putting people in a position to be successful by providing jobs and providing opportunities, that was my main goal and main focus.
Toledo: Everybody knows you’re one of the toughest guys in the NBA. Blake Griffin was on the Pardon My Take podcast recently and cited you as one of the only OGs and enforcer-type players left in the league.
Haslem: Ah man, that’s crazy. I appreciate that. I got a lot of respect for Blake and his game. He’s actually one of the young guys that I look at that play the game of basketball. The way he competes and goes out there and plays every night, I admire that. Everybody don’t give it a 100 percent every night. Watching him play, that’s the inspiration.
Toledo: I think you’re an inspiration for a lot of people who try to keep it in mind that, no matter what they do, tough it out and just get it done. I read an ESPN story from a few years back. You were still at the University of Florida living in an off-campus apartment with a roommate (Teddy Dupay) and your pitbull. I read that you actually got mad at your son, who couldn’t even speak yet, for not being tough enough when your pitbull came at him one time, and I thought that was great.
Haslem: I remember that. That was a long time ago. Yeah, I used to have a dog, and my son came up to visit me when I was in college, and he got a little scared. I’m not much for being scared.
Toledo: You let him know he’s gotta learn this early.
Haslem: Yeah, I’m not much for scaredy cats. I mean, I still remember things from my father that resonated with me when I was young. You know some of those things are things I try and instill in my kids and, even though I’m doing it early, they’ll remember it as they get older. There’s certain things that my father influenced me with that I still remember today.
Toledo: I was really interested in coming here today and making sure I asked about your music taste. What artists do you have in your rotation?
Haslem: I go with all the local guys, man. Of course I’m going with Trick [Daddy], [Rick] Ross, you know.
Toledo: You were in some of their music videos, right?
Haslem: Yeah, yeah. [DJ] Khaled and all those guys. Flo Rida. I support everybody here.
Toledo: What about non-Miami artists?
Haslem: I listen to Jay-Z. Some Lil Boosie. I like TI.
Toledo: You’re not rolling with the new school?
Haslem: Nah, I ain’t really with that new school. Nah, nah. Only new school I really listen to is Kodak Black. I like Kodak.
Toledo: What about video games? I know you’re busy and probably spend a lot of your summer working out, but is there anything you’re playing now?
Haslem: My kids. My kids are killing that Fortnite game. I’m not really into it. The last game I played, if I’m not mistaken, was Hitman.
Toledo: Wow. That was a while ago.
Haslem: Yeah, I know. I actually finished it too. I went through all the missions, you know.
Toledo: So your kids haven’t gotten you into Fortnite yet?
Haslem: Nah, man. But they getting me in the pockets, though! I keep getting these damn alerts to my phone, like, “$99.99, $29.99.” I’m like, “What the hell’s going on?” My kids playing all this damn Fortnite stuff.
Toledo: I’m here as part of Ethan Skolnick’s podcast network, Five Reasons Sports, and I saw that you followed our @miaheatbeat account the other day. Why did you do that?
Haslem: Ethan is my guy, man. Anything I can do to support you guys and whatever you guys are doing, I’m all in.
In celebration of its grand opening, Einstein Bros. is giving a 10 percent discount to Brightline riders through Dec. 31, 2018.