GREENSBORO, N.C. — The 2023 NBA Finals match-up is set, as the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets will battle it out in a best-of-seven series for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Here in the Triad, many people will be rooting extra hard for Miami, because they've got two guys on their roster who played high school ball in our area.
Bam Adebayo completed his senior year of high school at High Point Christian Academy where he averaged close to 19 points and 13 rebounds per game before heading to the University of Kentucky.
While in Lexington, Adebayo helped lead the Wildcats to a Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles. He was named All-Southeastern Conference Second Team as well as All-SEC Freshman Team.
After just one season in Lexington, Adebayo was drafted by Miami in 2017 with the #14 pick. Now in his sixth season in the NBA, Adebayo has increased his points per game every year, averaging 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game in the 2022-2023 season, while making his second NBA Finals appearance (2020) of his young career.
Adebayo's high school coach at High Point Christian, Brandon Clifford took some time out to speak with us before Game 1.
"This was all things we've talked about before. We had a lot of conversations during our trips back to see his mom. We would talk about what he wanted out of this game and it was always about winning. So to see him get to the NBA Finals for a second time, and to see him win an Olympic Gold Medal. I mean he was a starter for the USA Olympic team in Tokyo, and he's become one of the best players in the world. None of this shocks me honestly, because he's worked for it", Clifford went on to say.
Adebayo's teammate in Miami, Caleb Martin is also familiar with the Triad. He and his twin brother Cody were born and raised in Mocksville and played for Davie County High School.
Their former Coach Mike Absher also shared his thoughts about Martin's journey to this moment.
"Caleb just knew that if he put in the time and the work he'd get an opportunity and he'd take full advantage of it, and obviously he has... some of the shots he's made and some of the moments he had in the Eastern Conference Finals. I couldn't do anything but stand up and clap in my living", Absher said.
They played college basketball at NC State for a few years before ending their collegiate career at the University of Nevada where they led the Wolf Pack to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2018 (the school's first since 2004).
Martin was named Mountain West Conference Player of the Year in 2018 and was a two-time All-Conference performer. However, that wasn't enough to get his name called in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by the Charlotte Hornets (alongside his brother Cody who was actually drafted 36th by Charlotte).
Martin spent most of his first three seasons back and forth between Charlotte and Greensboro (Swarm) before The Hornets waived him in 2021.
The Miami Heat picked him up shortly after and Martin has flourished ever since, especially in this year's playoff run.
Martin averaged about 19 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics and was crucial in the do-or-die game 7 where He dropped 26 points while shooting 68% from the field and securing 10 rebounds.
On the other side of this Finals match-up, the Denver Nuggets have a few players on the roster with North Carolina ties as well. Back-up point guard Ish Smith went to Wake Forest and is from Charlotte and Jack White played his college ball at Duke. White is currently on a two-way contract with the team.
Game 1 between the Nuggets and Heat is set for Thursday at 8:30 p.m. over in Denver.
MORE WAYS TO GET WFMY NEWS 2
Subscribe to our daily newsletter Let’s Get 2 It!
ADD THE WFMY+ APP TO YOUR STREAMING DEVICE
ROKU: Add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching for WFMY.
Amazon Fire TV: Search for WFMY to find the free app to add to your account. You can also add the app directly to your Fire TV through your Amazon account.