The Miami Heat are one game away from the NBA Finals, to call this run an unprecedented would be an understatement. The Heat needed two play-in games just to get into the playoffs, and all they’ve done is dismantle the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games, handle the feisty New York Knicks in six games. And what they’re currently doing to the Boston Celtics is just criminal with a chance to sweep them with a Game 4 win.
While Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are the leaders along with head coach Erik Spoelstra calling the shots, it’s the role players for the Heat who have stepped up in a mighty way. On a team full of undrafted players, wing Caleb Martin may have the most unique story as to how he ended up playing a vital role in South Beach.
Rapper J. Cole Helped Martin Revive Sinking Basketball Career
After going undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft, Martin a former NC State and Nevada Wolfpack star, was signed by the Charlotte Hornets. During his rookie season with the Michael Jordan owned Hornets, he didn’t see the floor much, but saw the floor 53 games his second season. The Hornets decided to waive Martin prior to the 2021-22 season.
Enter J. Cole an avid hooper himself, who befriended Martin during his time in Cole’s native Charlotte.
During Sunday’s Game 3 broadcast on TNT, sideline reporter Allie LaForce talked about how Martin became a member of the Heat when no one else seemed interested in the two-way wing.
“We found out some interesting facts about Caleb Martin and how he got to this point,” LaForce said. “We we’re talking to head coach Erik Spoelstra before the game, and he said a week before camp started J. Cole … called assistant coach Caron Butler and said, my guy Caleb Martin is available.”
LaForce continued …. “Coach Butler passed on the information to Erik Spoelstra. He said, Could he come? We’re scrimmaging tomorrow. Martin showed up, impressed everyone, became a two-way player, and ever since, was a huge part of the starting rotation until they had to decide to sign him full-time. It was a match made in heaven from day one.”
Butler and Cole who have long been friends since Cole arrived on the rap scene years ago, have a great relationship. Butler even credited Cole with having an eye for talent.
Butler a former NBA player himself, told the Charlotte Observer this about his good friend.
“Having the foresight in knowing Caleb can come and helping a contending team was amazing.”
Butler continued …
“He has a great eye for talent, but I think he just sees the grind and the drive in people. He knows that someone like Caleb was going to go out there and play extremely hard, play wit a lot of grit and a lot of passion.”
Martin Has Become A Real Three-And-D Piece For The Heat
Martin went from a two-way player in 2021 to a full-time player last summer when the team rewarded him with a three-year, $20.4M fully guaranteed deal. Martin has responded to his newfound deal by playing in 71 regular season games with averages of nearly 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal per game, on solid shooting splits of 47/36/81.
While he’s upped the ante along with his Heat teammates in the postseason, he’s been really good against the Celtics averaging 19 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, on shooting splits of 63 percent from the field and 47 percent from three.
Amazing story, getting out of basketball purgatory in Charlotte to a well run franchise like the Miami Heat.