SLAM Top 50: Hassan Whiteside, No. 34

Welcome, Mr. Whiteside. From our #SLAMfam to you, we’d like to say, congratulations! You did it, you made it onto the SLAM Top 50. And man, was it a journey getting here.

Before this superb debut—surely, one of the high points in his career—Hassan Whiteside had to build a name for himself. Sounds a little odd since everyone knows his name now. He’s the face of the Miami Heat. The center who signed a four-year, $98 million contract with Pat Riley this summer. The big man who dunks and blocks showing off his 7-7 wingspan like a machine. Snapchat King, The Hassan Whiteside!

But the road to this newfound stardom wasn’t an easy one, or even a quick one. Sure, after the Heat signed him in November 2014, it took only a couple months for everyone to know the name Hassan Whiteside. A triple-double in 24 minutes during a nationally televised game against the Chicago Bulls certainly helped.

But I’m talking before that.

Before that, Whiteside was one of seven siblings in a rural Gastonia, NC, home. He jumped from high school to high school before attending Marshall University, where he played one year with the Thundering Herd.

In his freshman and only season at Marshall, Whiteside broke the record for total blocks by a first-year player. He averaged 13.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game, and soon after entered his name in the 2010 NBA Draft. The Sacramento Kings selected him early in the second round with the 33rd pick, and thus, Whiteside’s life-long dream of making it to the NBA finally came true.

Or so he thought.

In his first few years after the Draft, Whiteside went from the Kings to the D-League teams, Reno Bighorns, Sioux City Skyforce and Rio Grande Valley Vipers, to China to Lebanon to China again, and back to yet another D-League team, Iowa Energy.

Then, the Miami Heat gave him a chance and never looked back. After his triple-double against the Bulls, Whiteside’s applaudable play kept on strong. Despite playing in only 48 games, he finished fourth in Most Improved Player voting at the end of the 2015 season and continued his consistent numbers for Miami last year.

He averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and a League-best 3.7 blocks last season. He finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting and earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second-Team. He made his post-season debut with another double-double.

Soon everyone knew who Hassan Whiteside was—a big guy doing big things for the Miami Heat. If you didn’t know, you were totally out of the basketball hoop, uh, loop.

Now with the 2015-16 season ahead of him, and mad bank in his pocket, Hassan Whiteside truly needs to be the face of the Heat. Dwyane Wade is out in Chicago, and Chris Bosh’s health unfortunately doesn’t make it seem like he’ll be back on the court soon. It’s a new era in South Beach and Young Whiteside is up for the task.

Welcome, Mr. Whiteside, to the new NBA season—one our #SLAMfam expects you’ll have a hella hot impact on.

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2016-17—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

Follow the entire #SLAMTop50 countdown.