From 'Stick Wars' to the NBA: The Martin Twins Fight for a Dream Together

Jonathan Abrams@jpdabramsSenior Writer, B/R MagOctober 9, 2019

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 29:  Caleb Martin #10 and Cody Martin #11 of the Nevada Wolf Pack talk on the court during their game against the UNLV Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center on January 29, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wolf Pack defeated the Rebels 87-70.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The longest stretch Caleb and Cody Martin have ever spent apart from each other arrived this summer while the twins crisscrossed the country auditioning for NBA teams. "It was probably the first real time I had to go get something to eat by myself," Cody joked. 

They would still FaceTime nightly, offering tips on what to expect if one twin had just completed a workout with a team that remained on the other's schedule. They envisioned the period as a trial run. The Martins reconciled that a lifetime of shared experiences—from Cody being born first by a minute to transferring high schools and colleges together—would soon come to an end.

The nearing draft would be the first time their futures took a fork. "Basically prepping ourselves to be like, 'This is the last time,'" Cody said. "Really, after college, that was our last time that we were going to play together regardless, no matter what the situation was."

In two seasons, the twins lifted Nevada into college basketball's consciousness, including a 2018 run to the Sweet Sixteen, where the Wolf Pack lost by one point to national darling Loyola-Chicago. On draft night, the family gathered at the house in Clemmons, a suburb of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Anything could happen. Both twins could be selected. One could. They could go undrafted.

The wait ended for Cody when the Charlotte Hornets took him in the second round with the 36th overall selection. The Hornets saw a switchable forward with the skill set to initiate an offense. "Everyone who plays basketball, they want that to happen to them, for their name to be called," Cody said. "And for my name to be called to Charlotte, that's basically right down the street." 

Caleb knew how much Cody had worked for the realization of that dream. He had shared nearly every moment with him. Now, Cody would be beginning his professional career a short drive away from the family's home.

"You deserve it," he told Cody. 

"I ain't gonna lie, I was crying," Caleb said, recalling the moment. "I ain't cried in a minute."

Cody (left) and Caleb Martin (right) suit up for the Charlotte Hornets at 2019 Media Day.
Cody (left) and Caleb Martin (right) suit up for the Charlotte Hornets at 2019 Media Day.Bob Leverone/Associated Press/Associated Press

The night wore on. Deputy NBA Commissioner Mark Tatum summoned name after name. 

Caleb's name went uncalled. 

"We just kind of let things happen the way they did," said their mother, Jenny Bennett. "We didn't really talk a whole lot about it because he kind of needed to have some 'him' time."

"I kind of felt like I got picked at the same time," Caleb said. "Growing up together and having so many conversations about stuff like that, and the night comes and it happens. It was tough. I was just super happy for [Cody] and grateful that one of us could get picked up, and I couldn't ask for anything better. Obviously, I wanted to get drafted, but I kind of was preparing myself weeks in advance to get ready for that, to not get picked."

At an introductory press conference, a reporter asked Cody what it would be like to finally play without his twin. Turns out, he's going to have to wait a little longer to find out.

The Hornets signed Caleb to a free-agent contract shortly after the draft. He will have to earn an opening-night roster spot, but the opportunity to do so will be there with the Hornets devoting attention toward developing young players. 

"It's like a dream come true for them," Bennett said. 

NBA twins are no novelty. If one twin has the talent to play, chances are the other does, as well.

But it is rare for them to embark on their careers together. Brook and Robin Lopez spent more than a decade playing one another before Robin joined Brook in Milwaukee this offseason. "I thought we made all of the right moves…pretty much. Except for signing Robin," Brook joked to HoopsHype. "I don't know about that one."

In 2013, Houston traded Marcus Morris to Phoenix, reuniting him with his twin, Markieff. "You've always got somebody with you to work on your game with, to watch film with, basically like another coach," Markieff told the New York Times shortly after the trade.  

When it came time for their contract extensions, then-Suns executive Lon Babby negotiated a cumulative $52 million over four years for the brothers and left it up to them on how to best divvy up the sum. 

"I didn't know that," Cody said. "That is a weird way to handle a situation."

The Martin twins have a way to go before encountering such contractual predicaments. 

"I'm still in a position where I'm still kind of earning my spot," Caleb said. "It's not like I'm fully content where I'm at right now until I sign a guaranteed deal."

Caleb Martin at Nevada
Caleb Martin at NevadaDavid Becker/Getty Images

The twins and their older brother, Raheem, spent time growing up in a single-wide trailer in the tiny town of Cooleemee, North Carolina. Bennett raised them single-handedly while working multiple jobs. 

They were a mixed-race family in the South. The twins had to take out the trash together at night. Bennett once woke up to a burning cross in her yard. 

Growing up, the boys noticed things here and there that prompted deeper conversations later in life. 

How could their mother go so long without eating? Wasn't she hungry? Why was she crying, despite proclaiming everything was fine? 

"When you're going through it, you kind of notice little stuff, but you don't think too much about it," Caleb said. "Obviously, we weren't dumb. We knew what was kind of going on, but not to the full extent until probably sophomore year in college, where you look back and you're like, 'Dang.'"

The family stuck together, with Bennett telling the boys to sacrifice in the present and work toward the future. 

"She played a huge role in everything that we did and how things panned out for us and how we handle things, how we look at situations, whether it's a good situation or a tough situation," Caleb said. "How we get through that type of stuff—she's still our motivator, just trying to get to a point where she doesn't have to work anymore so we can start doing our job to give back, and obviously [when] you're giving back, the stuff isn't going to equal out to the amount that she did for us, but just trying to do a little bit at a time as we can."

Cody Martin at Nevada
Cody Martin at NevadaNati Harnik/Associated Press/Associated Press

A twin meant always having someone to play with. They would often use their imaginations as children. 

"We played dodgeball with sticks," Caleb said. "Stick Wars," they called it. "We didn't have any dodgeballs around, and we were just bored. Just doing dumb-kid stuff pretty much. Like, we just try to make up new games and just trying to use the resources around you, so you ain't going to go buy a whole bunch of balls. And try not to throw rocks at each other, so you just choose sticks. Just like making stuff up."

You entered the game at your own risk. They still talk about the time a neighbor got hurt.

"We told him not to play," Cody said. "We were like, 'We don't want you to get hurt.' Whatever. He was like, 'No, I can play. I can play.' I was like, 'All right.'

"I think it was literally the first one I threw. I just saw it in the air. It was like slow-mo, hit him right in the head."

They spent hours propelling themselves from a trampoline and dunking on an old hoop. Basketball became their sport, and the twins survived the daily losses Raheem handed down throughout their childhood.   

"We weren't really even thinking about [getting a] scholarship. It was just kind of like, ‘We're getting too big for football,' and baseball just got boring, but honestly, baseball was our better sport," Caleb said. 

The brothers all played together for a season at Davie County High School. The twins attended Oak Hill Academy as prep seniors and played two years at NC State before transferring to Nevada. 

The twins are indistinguishable to most. They maintain similar hairstyles and beards. Raheem laughs at the fact that even now, people who can't separate the two simply call out, "Hey, twin" to get their attention. 

"It's really easy once you been there for a while," Raheem said. "They don't look alike to me at all." 

Caleb (left) and Cody Martin (right) in college
Caleb (left) and Cody Martin (right) in collegeSam Wasson/Getty Images

Though they may be nearly identical in appearance, the twins bring different intangibles onto the court. Both filled up the box score, but Caleb is a crafty scorer and averaged 19.2 points his senior year while securing more steals and blocks than his brother. Cody averaged 12.1 points and placed top-10 in the Mountain West Conference in assists, steals and blocks.    

The predraft process allowed the twins to show what they offered on their own. 

"It was the first real time we had the opportunity to play without each other, too, to a certain extent, and I feel like that process kind of helped expand our game to a certain extent too, to allow us to show people what we did when we didn't play with each other," Cody said. "When we play with each other, I know how he plays. He knows how I play." 

They prepared themselves to go their separate ways. Their days leading into training camp together were a routine of eating right, lifting and workouts. "Now that this is my job, it's basically you just come in here and you just work, but it's fun because that's what I've been doing, and now this is all I have to do," Cody said.

During the season, one or both could end up playing for Charlotte's G-League team, the Greensboro Swarm. Raheem is an assistant basketball coach at Greensboro College. 

A lot is changing for the family. A lot is also staying the same. 

"I'm grateful to be here and still be able to be in the same area as my brother, work out together and still compete against each other ... It's fun to get to see how we both kind of implement ourselves," Caleb said. 


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