Udonis Haslem takes exception to ‘Heat hate,’ says Heat remains biggest East threat to Celtics

As the Celtics held their championship parade in Boston on Friday, the outside conversation has already turned to which Eastern Conference team poses the biggest threat to the Celtics next season.

After needing to qualify for the playoffs through the play-in tournament in each of the last two seasons, the Heat doesn’t seem like the obvious answer. Instead, a look at this past season’s East standings would indicate the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers all appear to be better answers since they finished ahead of the Heat.

But with retired Heat icon Udonis Haslem on ESPN’s “First Take” panel on Friday, he made sure to bring up the Heat when the topic came up for discussion. After fellow First Take panelists Kendrick Perkins and Brian Windhorst brought up teams like the Knicks, Bucks and 76ers, Haslem took exception to the Heat being left out of their answers.

Duncan Robinson. Terry Rozier. Jimmy Butler. A young superstar in Bam Adebayo. A young superstar in Tyler Herro. Jaime Jaquez Jr. Niko Jovic. Why don’t nobody ever say the Miami Heat?” a passionate Haslem said on the ESPN morning show Friday. “The last four of five years, it’s come down to the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee stuck themselves in there, but it’s come down to the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics. And we got La Spoelstra Nostra.”

The Heat and Celtics have faced off in the playoffs in four of the last five seasons: The Heat eliminated the Celtics in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics ended the Heat’s season in the 2022 East finals, the Heat ousted the Celtics in the 2023 East finals, and the Celtics made quick work of the Heat in the first round of this year’s playoffs on the way to their first NBA title since 2008.

“So I’m sitting here asking, why don’t nobody ever say the Miami Heat?” continued Haslem, who was hired by the Heat in November just months into retirement to be the vice president of basketball development. “A healthy Miami Heat is the team that can challenge Boston because we’ve done it the last four out of five years. I’m sick of this, man. This got to stop, the Heat hate got to stop.”

“First Take” host Molly Qerim responded to Haslem by bringing up the uncertainty surrounding Jimmy Butler’s situation with the Heat.

“It’s not Heat hate,” Qerim said. “We don’t even know if you’re going to have Jimmy Butler.”

Butler, who turns 35 on Sept. 14, entered this offseason seeking a maximum two-year contract extension worth about $113 million from the Heat. That extension would include salaries of $54.3 million for the 2025-26 season (nearly a $2 million increase from the player option that it would replace in Butler’s current contract for that season) and $58.6 million for the 2026-2027 season when Butler will be 37 years old.

Heat president Pat Riley was noncommittal last month when asked if the Heat would give Butler that extension this offseason, which has led to the outside speculation regarding a potential Butler trade that Qerim was referring to.

“We do know we’re going to have our best player,” Haslem responded on “First Take.” “You ain’t heard us say he’s going somewhere. We just hear y’all saying he’s going somewhere. Ain’t none of us ever saying he’s going somewhere. So what, is it not sexy enough for y’all because all we do is win? Because we win with guys that y’all don’t know.”

Haslem has been used in a broadcasting role on ESPN throughout the week, giving his opinions and analysis on NBA topics after the Celtics won their record-setting 18th NBA championship on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Celtics paraded through Boston on Friday following their 24-hour trip to Miami earlier this week to celebrate their championship.

When asked by Celtics television analyst and former NBA big man Brian Scalabrine during Friday’s parade whether this week’s celebratory trip to Miami was sweeter than other trips to South Florida that Boston has taken in recent years, Celtics star Jayston Tatum responded with a grin: “They’re always easy.”

The Heat, which was ravaged by injuries this past season, will look to field a healthier and better roster next season in hopes of challenging the Celtics and other East contenders. Miami holds the 15th and 43rd picks in next week’s NBA Draft (spans two days this year on Wednesday and Thursday) ahead of the official start of NBA free agency on June 30.

“I think he’s still drunk from the party,” Haslem said during a Friday appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter in response to Tatum’s comment at the parade. “He’s gotta still be tipsy from the party, there’s no way he could believe that. It’s OK, that’s what he’s supposed to say. Congratulations to the Boston Celtics. I ain’t gonna be no hater, we understand they’re the champs. We’re going to get fully healthy, then we’ll see what happens.”