When talk of the most underrated player in the league begins, one name that is usually thrown about is that of Joe Johnson. Many times you've heard that Joe flys under the radar, doesn't get as much TV exposure as other "stars."
How can a four-time NBA All-Star be underrated? He can't. Teams plan ahead on defending Joe Johnson. He has been known to hit a game winning shot or two in his career. That goes against the very definition of the word underrated, to underestimate an opponent.
No, an underrated player is one who is willing to do all the things on the court that a casual fan may not notice, but his coaches will. One that won't get any magazine covers, but earns the respect of his teammates. A fierce competitor who will leave it all out on the floor yet opposing teams do not assign defenders to "stop." One who sacrifices personal gains for the betterment of his team.
Miami has this player. Udonis Haslem.
The Miami Heat's hopes at success hinge not on their three superstars. They know what they will get from them. They rest on the shoulders of players like Haslem.
Haslem has been a mainstay in the Miami lineup the past seven seasons, watch any Miami game and you will notice Haslem there, setting hard picks, rolling to the basket. Need a rebound? Haslem is there to box out and grab one for you. Miss a shot and he's there for an offensive putback. Who's the one hustling for a loose ball or getting back on defense when the opposing team is on a fastbreak? Haslem.
Every contender needs guys like "UD." Good character guys who play their role well. When Miami asked him to come off the bench and backup a rookie in Michael Beasley, he did it. He was asked to play as an undersized center, Haslem did it. No questions asked.
You never see Haslem on the covers of magazines or many articles written about him. Outside of Miami you wouldn't see a kid wearing his jersey. What you will see is 10 ppg and 8 rpg from him nightly, no fuss, no fanfare. Just ballin.
It's no wonder that the two new recruits and Dwyane Wade took massive pay cuts just to allow Pat Riley to re-sign Udonis, who in turn turned down offers of $10 million more from Dallas and Denver to stay in his hometown. That's called sacrifice.
The League sells tickets based on star power but it's guys like Haslem who are the engines for teams. When Miami finally do win a title—be it this year or sometime down the line—the Big Three will get most of the kudos. Haslem will be a big reason why they win, and he may be forgotten amongst all the hoopla.That will probably sit just fine with him. That's just how these underrated guys are.