MIAMI (AP) -Fittingly, in a year when the Miami Heat were ravaged by injuries, they spent the season's final night paying tribute to their trainer.
Ron Culp, the longest-serving trainer in NBA history and one of the Heat organization's last remaining original employees, is retiring. His final game in his full-time role - the 3,001st regular-season game of his 37-year career - was Wednesday night, when the Heat hosted the Atlanta Hawks.
Sometime soon, Culp will slide into an undetermined role with the franchise.
``He's been here 20 years,'' Heat coach Pat Riley said. ``He just got it done.''
Riley said he and Culp began discussing retirement plans two years ago, and added that one of his fondest memories of this dismal Heat season was when Culp - who also served as Miami's travel coordinator - poured a round of champagne after Miami's final road game this season.
Culp had a style - and a look - all his own. It wasn't uncommon to see him walking through the locker room before games in shorts and a Heat golf shirt, with a distinctive bright red apron strapped across his body.
And at game time, Culp always donned a black blazer with ``Miami Heat'' emblazoned on one of the lapels. The blazer became such a Culp staple that the Basketball Hall of Fame asked to display his jacket from Wednesday's game, a request that will be granted.
Culp will be replaced by assistant trainer Jay Sabol.
``I told Jay the other day, he's got big shoes to fill,'' Riley said.
Culp is one of nine Heat original employees still with the team from its inception in 1988. He also worked with the Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers, plus was the trainer for USA Basketball gold medal-winning teams in both Olympic and world championship play.
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