Hassan Whiteside has been a basketball nomad since he turned professional, never lasting in one place too long because either he wanted to leave or nobody wanted him to stay.
Those days are long gone now.
Sticking to his plan to decide quickly, Whiteside’s foray into free agency ended early Friday morning — only a few hours after it formally began, with him accepting a four-year offer to stay with the Miami Heat. The deal as structured right now calls for Whiteside to earn $98 million, a person familiar with the terms told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because nothing can be signed and finalized until at least July 7.
Whiteside announced his decision on Snapchat and in a post on The Players’ Tribune. He then spent part of the rest of his day snapchatting images of himself talking to bison, birds and reindeer — "hey reindeer, I’ll see you on Christmas," Whiteside said at one point in a video — at a zoo, posing with a fan and enjoying ice cream.
"I’ve played on eight teams since college — from Reno to Sioux Falls to Sichuan, China," Whiteside wrote on Players’ Tribune. "I am not ready for there to be a ninth. I have decided to re-sign with Miami. I just wanted to take this time to tell all the fans how much you mean to this team, and to me. Can’t wait to get back to work and try to bring another championship to Miami."
He’ll be at work soon enough.
Heat officials, they’re not waiting around.
Heat President Pat Riley, managing general partner Micky Arison and team executive Alonzo Mourning are in the group that has a meeting with Kevin Durant on Sunday, presumably one of the last pitches Durant will hear before deciding whether or not to leave Oklahoma City. And Dwyane Wade remains on vacation in Spain awaiting to see how — or if — he figures into the Heat plans going forward, though he was among those who sent Whiteside congratulatory words on Friday.
"Big big congrats to (at)youngwhiteside," Wade tweeted Friday morning. "Your dedication and hard work to the game has finally paid off."
Wade ended his tweet with the hashtag, "Caniborrow5dollars," a nod to the financial stratosphere Whiteside will soon enter.
Whiteside made about $980,000 this season, a minimum salary for a player with his level of experience. He’ll now become a maximum-salary guy, or at least close to that level.
Regardless of what the final numbers will be, it is life-changing money after a breakout season. Whiteside averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and a league-best 3.7 blocked shots per game, finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year balloting and became a huge part of not just Miami’s path to the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs but also the team’s thinking going forward.
"I was really excited," Heat point guard Goran Dragic said in an interview from his native Slovenia. "I’m really looking forward to still playing with him and happy for him, happy for Miami, happy for the organization. And of course, we’re going to need him to be his best."
Whiteside’s career path is well-known, taking him to less-than-glamorous leagues in Lebanon and China, stints in the NBA Development League and even getting cut from teams at that level.
In the NBA, Sacramento and Memphis had time with Whiteside before he was signed by Miami in November 2014. He’s spent time on at least four different D-League rosters, plus the multiple stints in China and Lebanon. If anything, his count of being on eight teams since college seems to be forgetting a move or two along the way.
Less than two years after coming to Miami, Whiteside has become one of the game’s most dominant centers — and one of the highest-paid players in Miami franchise history.
Part of that is simply because of the enormous jump in the salary cap this summer, but part of that is because of the potential the Heat see in Whiteside.
On his Snapchat video announcing the decision, someone asks Whiteside, "Hey cuz, where you gonna sign?"
Whiteside replies, "Miami," — as Will Smith’s hit of the same name plays and the words "Heatnation it is" appear on the screen.
"Congrats to the big fella," Heat All-Star Chris Bosh wrote Friday on Twitter. "Great to have you back bro!"
Dragic is hoping it’s just the start of what could be another dramatic offseason haul for the Heat.
"We want to re-sign D-Wade and if we have a chance to get Kevin Durant, that would be awesome," Dragic said. "Our goal is to be better than last season. Of course, we need to have some luck, too. No injuries, and hopefully CB comes back too. Our goal is to win a championship together."