Two years ago, Caleb Martin was desperately looking for his place in basketball. Last night, however, he became the main protagonist of one of the greatest feats of the NBA playoffs: the Heat, the eighth seed of the regular season in the East, will play the Finals against the Nuggets.

That, for an eighth to reach the top, only happened once, in 1999 with the Knicks. Led indisputably by Jimmy Butler on the court and Erick Spoelstra on the bench, the Miami have been overcoming an unusual gymkhana until the seventh at the TD Garden in Boston, where they prevented the Celtics (84-103) from breaking tradition: never, in the previous 150, had anyone raised a 0-3. In passing, they avenged the defeat last year, where Butler himself had missed the decisive basket in the seventh, this time in Florida.

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NBA 2022 - 2023.

The Celtics are at the gates of heaven, the Heat will play the finals against the Nuggets


The Celtics are at the gates of heaven, the Heat will play the finals against the Nuggets

If something has the set devised by Pat Riley in the offices is a unique ability to overcome. In that, in inventing heroes, it is unique that he was legendary showtime technician. And Caleb Martin, who scored 26 points (11-of-16 shooting) and grabbed 10 rebounds in the seventh, is a glaring example. "I definitely reflect on where I started and the journey I made to get here," said the escort, dressed in a rapper look, after the triumph. No one can ever forget his series against the Celtics: he scored 135 points (19.2 average), a record for any player not drafted in a Conference Finals.

Because a lot has to do with his history of opportunities taken advantage of precisely with rap. In August 2021, Caleb's career, always hand in hand with his twin brother Cody (they played together at NC State University and later in Nevada), seemed to encounter an insurmountable wall. After two seasons of little brightness with the Hornets, the franchise that manages Michael Jordan decided to put an end to his contract.

That summer of working alone in search of another opportunity was going to be key for Martin. Born in Mocksville, North Carolina, in 1995, he frequently went to nearby Fayetteville, where he shared training with the famous rapper J. Cole, with whom he also befriended. Then, the singer, who came to try to make the jump to the NBA and even played in the Basketball Africa League with the Rwandan team of the Patriots, pulled influences. "He came up to me and said I had a very, very talented guy who was playing really well in North Carolina. Martin had just been cut by the Hornets and we were trying to improve our team, "revealed Caron Butler, assistant coach of the Heat, about that decisive game.

Raised in a caravan

So, the invitation to a training, an opportunity taken advantage of and a career shot. His first season under Spoelstra, 9.2 points and 3.8 rebounds. The second, the current one, finally with a fetén contract (20 million for three seasons), 49 games as a starter and a playoffs to remember (42.2% in triples), taking advantage of the casualties due to injury of Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo. Especially against the Celtics, whom he had already warned with 25 points in the second game. "It's a bit of a strange feeling because despite how happy and grateful I am, I understand that we have four more games. The job is not done. We didn't go through what we went through in the whole regular season and all my personal journey to stop here... We have four more," repeated Caleb, who did not enjoy an easy childhood either. His mother, Jenny Bennet, raised her three children alone, living in a caravan in Cooleemee, North Carolina. They slept in the same bed and often everything was plagued by insects, as he told years ago in a report in the Reno Gazette Journal.

In the unexpected hero, who had also been a promise of American football in his youth, the spotlights of a team that began the postseason losing the first game of the play-in and that has shattered all predictions by consecutively tearing apart Antetokounmpo's Bucks, the Knicks and the Celtics, no series with home court advantage. "I think this sheds a lot of light on how resilient our group is," Martin said. "How we are mentally engaged. It doesn't matter what seasons have passed. We've been talking about how the regular season has been preparing us for these moments, and I think it comes full circle." The Heat will play, against the Nuggets of Nikola Jokic, the seventh Finals in their history. They were champions in 2006, 2012 and 2013.

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