Caleb Martin: an amazing story to tell young people

The history of sports tells of many young people who became champions despite the fact that their starting social condition was terrible and provided no hope for a better future. That of Caleb Martin, NBA player, is one such life that turned into a successful career. It is important to know these stories because they are proof of the possibility of changing one’s destiny while starting from an exceedingly disadvantageous situation. Of course, one does not have to become rich and famous to get out of a disadvantageous life situation. One must leverage one’s own resources and take the path we want to take. Knowing stories like this one from Caleb Martin should help one not to feel alone and to recognize that many have already been in situations and seriously tried to change their lives.

Article by Roberto Barbacci

Of stories like his America is full of them, but then to make them stand out requires talent, circumstance and a bit of that luck that can’t and should never be lacking. The Martins’ childhood (including that of their older brother Raheem) was akin to a mountain to be climbed with bare hands: growing up without a father, they lived until the age of 14 in a 70-square-foot, insect-infested trailer with only one bed available, so much so that they took turns sleeping there once every three days (and the other two on the floor).

Providing them with a glimmer of hope was helped by their mother Jenny, who, however, being white in a town where racial hatred is still quite deep-rooted (Cooleemee, North Carolina) had to deal with a multiplicity of added problems, so much so that groups affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan often and willingly burned white crosses in front of the home as a sign of contempt (they did not accept the fact that the biological father of the three children was black). Jenny worked an average of 14 hours a day, often overnight, in order to provide a minimum subsistence for her children, sometimes even giving up food in order to provide more food for her children. Who outside of school spent their days playing basketball with the basketball hoop recovered from a tin plate found in a dumpster.

A winning choice: the birth of a talent

Basketball in the Martin twins’ lives came relatively late in life: they began playing assiduously at age 13 and soon after entered the school basketball program at Davie County High School in Mocksville, alternating for some time with the soccer program as well. The talent they showed from their earliest competitions allowed them both to become known and appreciated, so much so that a call from Oak Hill Academy allowed them to take the next step forward.

And once it came time to choose a college, the choice in 2014 fell to North Carolina StateUniversity, except for deciding two years later to transfer to the University of Reno’s basketball program, joining the Nevada Wolf Pack on a full scholarship, even at the cost of having to sit out a season (rules at the time mandated this for those who decided to change universities).

Over the next two seasons, however, young Caleb proved he made the right choice: a 19-point average per year, a Sweet 16 win at the 2018 NCAA Tournament, and a decision to make himself eligible for the 2019 Draft that surprised no one. If anything, the surprise was to find that the NBA franchise wanted to spend a call-up on him. But for Caleb this was no big deal.

On a plane going to Miami

Cody’s presence in Charlotte convinced management to give him a chance, and the trust was repaid on the court especially in his second season, which ended with 53 total appearances (plus those in the G-League with the Greensboro Swarm). But the decision to cut him, which came in August 2021, seemed to cast a shadow over the continuation of his NBA adventure.

In those difficult days, Caleb decided to return home to his mother Jenny, to whom he had since helped buy a worthy home with his first earnings. The idea of going to play in Europe did not appeal to him all that much, but the horizon did not seem to promise anything different. Until one morning, after a chat with his friend J. Cole (a rapper who was born in Europe but later settled in North Carolina and is well known in America), the latter came up with an idea: J. Cole had written a song years earlier about Caron Butler, for 14 years a player for the Miami Heat,since 2020 a member of Erik Spoelstra’s coaching staff.

He picked up the phone and begged him to give his friend Caleb an opportunity to try out with the Heat, usually very careful about recruiting players outside the draft. Three days later, Martinera on a plane bound for Miami. That audition earned him a new two-way contract, which in February 2022 would become a standard contract and in July 2022 would take the form of a three-year, $20.4 million total. This was because in the meantime on the court Caleb had really shown what he was made of: points per game and minutes on the parquet doubled from the previous year, and complete and unconditional trust from Spoelstra. Who also had yet to admire Martin at his peak.

Miami-Boston: the series of destiny

The opportunity to do so came during the 2023 playoffs, in which Miami entered through the back door, winning the decisive game against the Chicago Bulls to secure the last available spot in the East. That forced the Heat to take on the No. 1 seed, the Milwaukee Bucks, who were sent back to sender with a resounding 4-1 win.

And after getting rid of the Knicks 4-2 in the semifinals, against the Celtics once again the odds certainly did not hang in their favor. And those who thought Martin would be downsized after the 27 minutes with an average of 11 points per game recorded in the previous series had to think again: against Boston, Cody’s twin brother raised his game level, collecting 35 minutes per game and, above all, averaging more than 19 points during the 7 games played, with Miami ahead 3-0 and then forced to win the “second game” on the road after being caught at 3-3 (it had never happened in history that a team ahead 3-0 lost a series 4-3): three other times Game 7 was needed, but this was the first time the team that went on to win the round won the series on the road).

The 26 points scored in the challenge that decided one of the most incredible series in recent years, avenging the 4-3 loss suffered by the Heat at the hands of the Celtics last season, enshrined the talent of a guy who was able to overcome enormous obstacles, showing a resilience and determination hard to find elsewhere.

One who as soon as Game 7 was over wanted a phone to call Mom Jenny, who God only knows how proud she is of her son. “Cody and I don’t regret the past, but only now have we noticed all the things our mother didn’t reveal to us when we were little, all the things we realize now. It was difficult, but she made many sacrifices like not eating some nights and giving up job opportunities because she had no help at home and had to be there for us. These are the things that make you the person you are. Everyone goes through difficult times and difficult beginnings, but that’s when you fight adversity and that helps you mentally. When you have problems on the field, you realize those problems are nothing I know what we overcame and that’s why I have crazy respect for my mother.”



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