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Jason Taylor Foundation overcomes adversity to host 15th Cool Gear for the School Year

Every year, the Jason Taylor Foundation gathers celebrities across South Florida to give kids a chance to start their school year rocking the latest fashion trends. Together with Old Navy, former Dolphins superstar and Hall of Fame pass rusher Jason Taylor has been outfitting students with $300 dollars worth of clothing for 15 years. This year, however, adversity stood in their way.

The Miami Dolphins are currently facing a season where losing will be a common theme. It’s hard to imagine any players wanting to take time out of their day in the face of such hardship. Even worse, Hurricane Dorian threatened to come to South Florida, forcing Cool Gear for the School Year 2019 to be postponed until September 16. Under those circumstances, it makes sense that the overall turnout wouldn’t be as notable as years past.

However, that was anything but the case on Monday evening. The kids still came, the celebrities still contributed, and everything went as smoothly as one could imagine.

“Although the storm didn’t come here, it ended up turning, we had to simply reschedule it.” Jason Taylor said. “That’s the least of our concerns, that’s easy. Old Navy’s easy to work with, and they were all for it. They didn’t want their employees on the road either. So Dorian had very little effect on us. It had a very major effect on our neighbors. We’re still working with the foundation, somehow, someway, we’re gonna do one of these for people over there as well.”

Dedication

That’s an admirable mission, especially considering the level of destruction suffered by the Bahamas at the hands of Dorian. The Jason Taylor Foundation is committed to improving the lives of kids all across South Florida. But it’s now abundantly clear that they aren’t limited to that area. Help is needed everywhere, and they will do what they can to provide.

This event doesn’t happen without an army, however. That’s where the celebrities come in, not the least of which is rising star Jerome Baker. In spite of Miami’s struggles on the field, the Dolphins linebacker and team captain went out of his way to arrive and offer his notoriety to the event. He and fellow captain Walt Aikens walked along with kids and helped them shop for whatever they needed.

“They had a little list, they had everything they wanted, so we were letting them free reign.” Aikens said. “Get whatever they want, they know how to swag it out these days.”

Other celebrity shoppers included several Dolphins alumni, such as O.J. McDuffie, Troy Drayton, Louis Oliver, Jeff Dellenbach, Channing Crowder and more. Their intentions are undoubtedly selfless, but Jerome Baker admitted that doing these events helps him reset and get back into a good place mentally. Given the defeats the Dolphins have suffered as of late, this was a welcome respite.

“It just shows you that football is football, ” He said. “Events like this show you that it’s more than football than just in-between the white lines. A chance to come out here and just to see kids’ faces, to see everybody smile … it kinda brings you back down to reality. Football’s gonna take care of itself. What’s really important is your family, your community, your friends, it’s definitely good.”

Impact

The Jason Taylor Foundation reaches far beyond the world of football. Even Miami Heat star Udonis Haslem attended as a celebrity shopper.

“I got a long relationship with Jason (Taylor) and I’m real supportive of anything he’s doing.” Haslem said. “He’s the same for me and anything I’m doing. It was great to have the opportunity to come out here, I’ve done it before, and it’s always fun. I got three boys, I’m used to shopping for kids, I know what the fashion is, what the style is, I know what they’re looking for so it gets easier every year.”

And every year, the impact of the Jason Taylor Foundation adds up. In 2019, 60 kids from across South Florida went home with new clothes. Over $18,000 was spent in an hour’s time. And over the course of this event’s 15 years, over $260,000 for over 900 kids.

“That’s what we’re about,” said Seth Levit, Executive Director of the Jason Taylor Foundation, as well as one of the hosts for The Fish Tank podcast. “That’s our mission, is to support these young people. That number makes us feel pretty good about the work we’ve been able to do.”

It speaks to the character of those involved that this event still goes off without a hitch. For get-togethers like this, scheduling is everything. But not even a storm like Dorian could keep it from ultimately succeeding. Now, 60 more kids are going to go back to school feeling great about how they look, allowing them to focus on what really matters.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

O Captain! My Captain! What Haslem return means for Miami Heat

The OG is back to protect the CULTURE for a 17th season. Jimmy Butler was the “orca” acquisition Riley had been craving, but don’t discount the importance of bringing back Mr. 305 for the Miami Heat.

We all know the narrative around Haslem at age 39, UD has seen the twitter chatter too. Yet, anybody who questions what Udonis brings to the Miami Heat locker-room is either blind or ignorant. Rarely does the last man on the roster provide such unmeasurable value and return on investment. He’s more than a player-coach. He’s the literal human embodiment of HEAT CULTURE. That mantra we all love – The Hardest Working Best Conditioned Most Professional Unselfish Toughest Meanest Nastiest Team In The NBA – that IS Udonis Haslem. His entire life-story could be the first chapter in Spoelstra’s Team Handbook, given to players at training camp. 

In 2016, HEAT fans were left bewildered and broken-hearted when Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade went through a bitter divorce. It felt like the world had been turned upside down. The infamous HEAT CULTURE was in peril. Who was there to pick up the pieces and keep it all together? The Captain. And truthfully, besides that season we all wish to forget, UD’s presence has never been more vital inside 601 Biscayne Blvd.

Playing with Udonis Haslem is a right of passage if you’re suiting up for the Miami Heat. That C on his chest wasn’t just given to him. He’s earned it! UD not only gets players to buy into the CULTURE, he enforces it. Just ask Quentin Richardson, who told a fantastic story of Haslem introducing him to HEAT CULTURE on his Knuckleheads podcast. How can we let Jimmy Butler start his Miami Heat tenure without Udonis Haslem by his side? It just wouldn’t feel right. Jimmy yearns to have guys like UD alongside him in the fight. 

Last season was all about celebrating Wade’s One Last Dance tour. This season should be all about passing on the torch to the next generation. The process has already started, especially with Bam, as Haslem noted in an Instagram post that made all of Miami misty-eyed. But his mentorship goes beyond Bam. UD has a tremendous impact on every player that dons a Miami Heat jersey, on and off the court.

Need some proof? Look no further than this exceptional write-up from local legend, Barry Jackson, where Goran Dragic gushes over UD’s importance to this team. He’s clearly Spoelstra’s most trusted advisor and confidant. When a message needs to be delivered to the team, all he has to do is look down the bench at #40. Not only does Udonis know exactly what needs to be said, but it’s the emotion, honesty and Championship experience behind those words, that resonates with players. 

And this season, with the loss of Juwan Howard, who else can Spo lean on to be his “player-liason” when things get a little rocky – because they always do. That’s not a knock on Spoelstra, but we all know his history. At one point it was Fizdale that would help smooth things over between Erik and a player. When Fizz left, that role was handled by Juwan Howard. Well, now Juwan is in Michigan.

Spoelstra needs that extra voice to help instill confidence in whatever decision he’s making. Especially in regards to players falling in and out rotations, sometimes overnight. Nobody knows that better than Udonis who rapidly went from the starting lineup to the end of the bench. That’s something to keep in mind if Spoelstra wants to insert Justise Winslow as his starting PG and have Goran Dragic run the second team. Haslem, the ultimate team first warrior, is the perfect person to help Goran transition mentally into this new role as sixth man and mentor to #PointJustise. 

Point blank, Udonis Haslem can go out anyway he wants. He’s earned that! The man that leads HEAT Nation into a frenzy anytime he hits a baseline jumper, grabs that last rebound, or tell Lance Stephenson that he’s going to f*** him up, and that’s real – a personal favorite of mine.

UD that has shed blood, sweat and tears for the city he loves and the state tattooed on his back.

That type of leadership never gets old. That’s why Miami loves him. 

That’s why #40 will hang in the rafters. 

That is why he’s the Captain.

Is Bam the Heat’s bridge to the future?

There is a lot of buzz around Bam Adebayo.

Especially now that Hassan Whiteside is no longer around.

The Heat’s 2017 first round pick was a metrics standout after he finally replaced Whiteside in the starting lineup last season, and the Heat — publicly and privately — have not been shy about their feelings for him. As long as he doesn’t get traded for someone like Bradley Beal (a story for another day), it appears Adebayo will receive the 30 minutes per night he should, and get a chance to showcase his talents.

But it’s not just the skills the Heat like — it’s his makeup.

On the night he was drafted, a team official told me they had a huge binder on Adebayo, talking to anyone and everyone who knew him, and that official described him as “the anti-Hassan.” Someone who works with the team. Someone who doesn’t need constant validation. Someone who gets it.

And when you get it, you get praise like this from the keeper of Heat culture on your birthday:

View this post on Instagram

@bam1of1 I'd be lying if I said I've had or could ask for a better young fella!!! As much as you nag, aggravate, and antagonize the hell out of me, you make it a joy to come to work everyday. The way you see the game. The way you approach the game. Who you play for. Why you play. And how you reach your goal of getting there all falls in line with the young UD. Although different styles we not that different at all kid. Been looking for someone to take this shit and run wit it and from where I'm sitting it's you! You have the mold of a lifer!! It was never more evident then watching you finish the season the way you did last year… Never complained. Just lead by example no matter the circumstances mentally or physically. This bout all the good shit you gonna hear from me til next year so enjoy it kid. Lol. We gon have a lil fun for ya bday then it's back to verbally abusing you. Lol. HBD young fella!!! Idk how old yo ass really is but it's still a blessing to see another year!! Lol. Love ya lil bro/son!!! #og

A post shared by Udonis Haslem (@ud40) on

“Been looking for someone to take this s— and run wit and from where I’m sitting it’s you!”

And of course, the skills do matter.

He showed off some in the Miami Pro League.

Skip to about 1:05.

Yeah, that’s a 7-foot man.

And that’s why I’m saying this:

 

Udonis Haslem has had enough of your garbage

OK, that’s not the word he would use.

 

But this is a family website.

Five Reasons and Miami favorite Udonis Haslem posted on Instagram, to let people know what he thinks of them telling him he shouldn’t play anymore. He might tell you something different in person.

View this post on Instagram

I've never been the one to listen to outside noise. Key word is listen. Doesn't mean I don't hear. See the thing most average minded people don't get is if I let your expectations of me define me then I wouldn't be here today. Problem is majority of this world is average ASF!! Nobody ever expected shit from a young fat kid from liberty city. Hell why would they? But I'm thankful they didn't. I guess I shouldn't own Subways, and Einstein, and Auntie Ann's, and Starbucks, and 800 Degrees Woodfire kitchens either huh? What I've grown to realize in my life is that my obsession with success, my drive to overcome obstacles, and my overall work ethics is way higher than most. And I'm ok with that. It makes sense why most think I should retire at 39. Cause most would. Cause most are average minded. Most don't look like this at 39! Hell they ain't look like this at 19. Lol. So y'all keep worrying about the last spot on the roster while I sit back and stay ready so I don't gotta get ready. I'm not saying I'm playing next year but if u with me then u will support whatever I do!! Not tell me what to do!! And if that ain't good enough for u, in the words of Barbara Wooten f**k ya!! U was never wit me anyway!! Oh and one more thing. You out your 🐰 ass mind if you think I can't still play this game. I'll sleepwalk into a double double cause I'm just built different!! Y'all should know that by now but keep hating. I need y'all!! A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and if I'm the weak link that's a hell of a f**king chain!! ✌🏾️☑️💯 #og

A post shared by Udonis Haslem (@ud40) on

Our view on this:

UD should do whatever the f— he wants.

He takes the 15th roster spot?

So bleeping what.

The Heat have 2 two-way slots now. They can develop young players that way.

If he wants to play, he should play. If he wants to coach, he should coach. If he wants to run his restaurants — I was his Subway in Oakwood Plaza this weekend — you should get a meatball sub and like it. And order another.

And if he wants a podcast on the Five Reasons Sports network, get him a damn sponsor and let’s do it.

Very few athletes in South Florida history have earned this right. He has given himself to the Heat franchise and, more importantly, the community, in every conceivable way. His body. His soul. He is Heat Culture, if that really means anything.

Oh yeah, and he takes a photo with my daughter at every Heat family fest.

She chose that jersey for a reason.

So U do U, UD.

Forever and always.

Who’s second to UD for teammate of the year?

This Teammate of the Year thing is a cute idea.

Reward someone for being there for the other guys on his team…. day after day, year after year.

For his passion.

For his sacrifice.

But really, what are any of these other guys doing here with Udonis Haslem?

We like Mike Conley a lot…. he’s a nice guy and a major Dwyane Wade stan.

Channing Frye is a popular figure…. and a Goran Dragic fave.

So is Jared Dudley.

Khris Middleton?

Our Nekias Duncan (pictured left below) has more than a man crush.

He has a restraining order against him from the Bucks forward.

(Maybe. Maybe not. But he should.)

But Wade, Haslem’s teammate since 2003, had it right.

There’s no one else on that list who repeatedly stayed with the same team, offseason after offseason, taking less money until recently. Sixteen years in all. There’s no one else who is feared inside the locker room by those 50 pounds heavier. There’s no one else who would have done this:

Oh, and there’s this:

He follows @MiaHeatBeat on Twitter.

If that’s not taking one for the team, nothing is.

 

(Feature photo by Tony Capobianco at a Dolphins/Bears game, where Haslem tolerated Wade.)