MIAMI -- Udonis Haslem receives a special treat every year around this time.
The Thanksgiving holiday means Haslem gets to have a few slices of his grandmother's caramel cake, a recipe unknown to most in the family. Haslem only knows it's made from scratch, and "straight from Perry, Ga."
Still, a day before he digs in, Haslem is expected on the receiving end of something perhaps even sweeter. He needs just two rebounds Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks to pass Alonzo Mourning for the Miami Heat's career rebounding record of 4,807.
The moment could actually spoil Haslem's Thanksgiving meal.
"The memories are what I'll save," Haslem said. "Hopefully, I won't get old or Alzheimer's or something and (forget) that I was the rebounding champion. The memories are what I'll really hold on to, what are dearest to my heart."
Haslem already has plans to save the game ball. He could have surpassed the mark last week in Phoenix but was removed from the game late. This was an honor the Heat wanted to experience at home. He will break the record in his hometown with plenty of fans, friends and family at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"To do it in front of my family, in front of my friends, so many people that I love and care about, in front of my home fans that have supported me for so long, it's going to be a great accomplishment," Haslem said.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra added: "First of all, hometown guy right in our back yard. It's a great story, coming from Liberty City, not being drafted and absolutely earning everything he's gotten in this league and for this organization."
Haslem, in his 10th year, played one season in France after being bypassed by the NBA in 2003. He worked his way back, landing an opportunity with the Heat. He still remembers the first conversation he had with the coaching staff.
They told him there were plenty of scorers in the league and to focus on rebounding.
And Haslem has done it ever since, carving a niche on two championship teams.
"It was a tribute to my mind-set," Haslem said. "If you put your mind to it, I know people say it a lot and it's a cliche, but if you put your mind to it, you can do it. Because I wasn't a great rebounder in college [at Florida]."
Haslem developed into a rebounder despite being undersized. He is generally listed at 6-foot-8, but says he is closer to "6-7 3/4 with my shoes on."
"It's a prime example of what we always talk about here about height not mattering," forward LeBron James said. "It's about willpower, about strength and determination."
Mourning compared Haslem to other undersized rebounders such as Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace. He said all found ways to impact the game by having a knack for finding the ball.
"I think of those guys that are undersized that go above and beyond and strategically developing their craft, getting their hands on basketball," said Mourning, who works as the Heat's VP of player programs since retiring in 2008. "Udonis is very undersized but somehow he got a way to want it just a little bit more than the guy in front of him. It makes all the difference in the world. He's one of those guys that everybody wants on their team because you don't have to run a play for him and he'll go out and get you a double-double."
As for losing the record, Mourning has no problem passing it on to Haslem. In fact, this is the perfect replacement. Mourning said both were similar players, and will be remembered for their toughness.
He went far as saying he was "honored" to share the court with Haslem when they were teammates.
"For sure, by far, hands down," Mourning said. "If anybody is going to break the record, that's the guy I would want to do it."
In typical Haslem fashion, he found a blemish. He was disappointed about not surpassing the record sooner. The process was slowed when he missed a large portion of two seasons because of injuries.
"Not to mention that I was hurt two years," he joked. "Two years of season-ending injuries. Knock on wood, I don't get hurt again. I could have broken the record already."
(c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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