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Caleb Martin: The Embodiment of Heat Culture



Caleb Martin Instagram

The Miami Heat are playing in the NBA Finals. Think about how surreal it is for that to have occurred. A team with only one All- Star in Bam Adebayo, and seven undrafted players who have had significant roles this post season are about to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Miami became the first play-in team in history to reach the finals, and the second 8th seed since the New York Knicks in 1999. Miami has been winning because they have bought in to the idea of “Heat Culture”, a foundation that was established by President Pat Riley and has been carried on by Head Coach Erik Spoelstra. This idea hyper focuses the organization on excelling in every area, practice, cleanliness, hard work, and development. It is why for Miami; Caleb Martin is the embodiment of “Heat Culture”.

Caleb Martin has always been an underdog. Martin started his college career playing for the NC State Wolfpack before transferring to Nevada in 2016. In 2018, Martin was voted the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and averaged 19.5 points per game. That same year, Martin helped his team advance to the Sweet Sixteen and followed that with another NCAA tournament appearance his senior season. Despite the college success, Martin’s name was not called in the 2019 NBA draft. Eventually he would sign with the Hornets as an undrafted free agent and would spend the next two years with the Charlotte Hornets, playing around 15-18 minutes per game, before he was waived by the Hornets.

Martin describes this time as the darkest hour of his life. Speaking on that moment on the Dan LeBatard Show, Martin stated “Getting waived by the Hornets was definitely the biggest slap in the face… at that point I’m thinking about going overseas.” Yet Martin decided to continue working on his game and returned to North Carolina where he worked out at a gym owned by rapper J Cole. Cole and Martin knew each other since Martin’s college days at North Carolina State and their relationship continued to grow over the years, even when Martin moved on to Nevada and eventually the NBA. It was after watching Martin work out, that Cole reached out to Caron Butler, talking effusively about Martin. That opened the door for a tryout with the Miami Heat, in which Martin passed with flying colors.

Martin became a significant contributor for the Heat averaging nine points per game and shooting 41% and 36 % from three during his first two years in Miami respectively. Miami rewarded Martin’s hard work and contributions by signing him in 2022 to a three-year deal worth $20 million. Today the contract looks like one of the biggest bargains in the NBA, as Martin has taken yet another step in the playoffs. In the playoffs he is averaging 14.1 PTS/5.7 REBS/57% FG/44% 3P. In the Eastern Conference Finals, versus the prohibitive favorite Boston Celtics, Martin out performed everyone not named Jimmy Butler averaging 19.3 PTS/6.4 RPG/60.2% FG/48.9% 3P.

Martin made shot after shot throughout the game, stifling any Boston attempt at a comeback.

Undrafted free agent. Cut from the team. No excuses. That is what Heat Culture is all about. You don’t feel sorry for yourself, you don’t make excuses, you work your heart out, you play as “15 strong”. Martin is the perfect example of a player who trusted the system put in place 28 years ago when Riley arrived to Miami.

Martin has now developed in to the Heat’s second star and scoring option “1A” with Jimmy Butler. He will face a Nuggets defense that does not play aggressive on perimeter defenders and will have ample looks with wide open threes, or use his speed to put pressure on Jamal Murray. Martin will make Murray play defense and will be a decisive X-factor in defensively making Murray uncomfortable. Don’t expect the stage to be too big for Martin. He was cutthroat in the most hostile of environments, a game 7 in Boston Garden, and he took their hearts out. Expect the same drive and determination to continue in the NBA Finals, as Martin is taking the next step from role player, to stardom. For Miami’s biggest star Jimmy Butler, this comes as no surprise:
“That might have surprised y’all. To the untrained eye, he looks like he’s an undrafted guy who has been in the G League… To us he’s a hell of a player, defender, playmaker, defender all of the above. Everybody has seen Caleb work on those shots’ day in and day out. It doesn’t surprise us. We have seen it every single day. I’m so proud and happy for him. I think he’s going to be even better in the next round, and I don’t think he’s going to be a surprise to anybody any longer.”

Jimmy Butler is right. Martin is no longer a surprise. He is a star in the making, forged by Heat Culture.

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