AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—
Thursday’s NCAA Tournament big winners?
From a Miami Heat perspective, it would be power forward Udonis Haslem and the Florida treasury.
As for Heat guard Dwyane Wade? Well, Marquette’s 68-58 loss to Florida on Thursday night will leave him driven to distraction for the next year.
In a show of support for their schools, Haslem and Wade went into the Round of 16 matchup with a friendly wager that now leaves Wade having to spend the year driving with an official State of Florida “Gators” license plate.
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The wager was for the license to adorn one of Wade’s many cars.
“The team’s going to vote on it. The whole team,” Haslem, a Heat co-captain along with Wade, said with a wide grin following Friday morning’s practice at the Palace of Auburn Hills, in advance of the Heat’s Friday night game against the Detroit Pistons. “I’m going to let the guys get involved. The whole team, we’re going to vote on which car.”
Wade has his own vote.
“I didn’t say how much I’m going to drive the car,” he said. “I’m just going to put it on.”
Haslem said he plans to force Wade’s hand.
“The one he got for his birthday, he’s got to drive that,” Haslem said.
That would be the $ 230,000 McLaren MP4-12C that Wade received for his birthday in January.
“Oh, he’s got to drive that,” Haslem said. “There’s no way, there’s no way he can’t drive a McLaren.
“It’s like a million-dollar car, too. I mean who’s putting that in the garage?”
Not one to renege, Wade said he ordered the Florida plate as soon as Marquette lost.
“It will be the one in the back; it’ll be Gators,” he said.
For Haslem, his NCAA highlight remains advancing to the 2000 national championship game against Michigan State.
Or does it?
“At this moment, I’m pretty satisfied right now, by last night’s game,” Haslem said. “It’s tough. I would have to say probably I’m living for the moment. My day is past. I had my fun. I’m living for the moment.”
That didn’t mean Haslem wasn’t sweating out Thursday’s late-night finish.
“I was talking trash,” Haslem said of his messaging to Wade, “but inside I was still a little nervous because we couldn’t quite put them away.”
Wade said Haslem simply had Thursday’s better team.
“You know what?” Wade said. “The game was hanging right there. But Florida played a better game all the way through. I actually thought that we should have been down 20. Us even being that close gave us a chance. They were just better than us.”
Haslem made Wade feel the pain beyond the wager.
“U.D. made sure he made his mark,” teammate LeBron James said. “He came in with the Gator fight song this morning, played it on the bus, and he’s probably going to mess without through the whole week.”
James said he enjoyed that part, too.
“Nah, I don’t feel for him,” he said of Wade, “because he was talking all that Marquette stuff when I picked Murray State to beat ‘em [in the second round]. So he had it coming to him.”
The Heat do not have a Louisville player on the roster, leaving Haslem without a bet for Saturday’s regional final.
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