In the beginning...
When Kevin Martin's name was called by NBA commissioner David Stern on June 24, 2004, the improbable had happened.
A small-town player had gone big-time in a way few ever do, as the skinny kid from Zanesville, Ohio and tiny Western Carolina College had been selected 26th overall in the draft by the Sacramento Kings. Six years later, Martin continues to surprise the masses. The 6-foot-7, 185-pound shooting guard has become one of the league's best scorers, finishing in each of the last 4 seasons ranked in the top 25 in the league in points per game, while proving worthy of the five-year extension he signed with Sacramento in the summer of 2007. His story continues in Houston, but that is not where it began.
Back in the Day...
The hometown and the high school years
Martin was born on Feb. 1, 1983 in Zanesville, Ohio. A town of 25,000 people, located 50 miles East of Columbus where his father, Kevin, mother, Marilyn, and brother, Jonathon, still live. He grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, marveling at the greatness that led to six NBA titles and honoring Jordan by plastering posters on the walls of his bedroom.
When Martin entered the high school hoops ranks, his dream of playing in the pros could not have seemed more far-fetched. He weighed less than 100 pounds as a freshman and would top at 150 pounds during his senior season. But just as Martin grew adept at making the most of his talents, he grew to 6-4 and was becoming a potent prodigy on the offensive end.
Though Martin took fourth place in the voting for Mr. Ohio as a senior - the award that goes to the state's best prep basketball player - he knew he was good enough to continue his basketball career at the college.
The College Years
Off to Cullowhee
Martin's thin frame and unique shooting motion left college recruiters doubting his ability to get it done on the next level. His only scholarship offers came from the tiniest of programs: Ohio University, the University at Buffalo, and Western Carolina University.
In 2001, Martin chose to head for Cullowhee, N.C., where he would soon become the pride of the Western Carolina Catamounts. In a town where the population (3,579) was even smallerthan that of his quaint hometown, he finished his freshman season ranked 11th in the nation in scoring (22.1 points per game). He proved to be a great three-point shooter as soon as he arrived on campus, but at seasons end, he and his coaches realized that he had a problem. Late in the season, teams started crowding him with smaller guys, hoping to take away any outside shot and force him to drive or create his won shot. At that point of his career, he did not have those things in his game. So Martin drove his old beat up car that summer from Ohio to Clearwater, Florida to begin training with David Thorpe, a player development specialist that had been working with mostly high school players. The summer proved to be significant for both Thorpe and Martin. Coach Thorpe worked to add a dribble drive game to Martin's total offensive attack, but also tweaked his mindset to evolve from shooter to scorer and from thin and weak to mentally tough "beast" trapped in a skinny frame. Most importantly, he convinced Martin that he could be a first round pick after his junior season if he just continued to work. To Martin's great credit, he believed everything Thorpe taught and said, despite knowing that no Western Carolina player had ever been a first round pick in any sport, and the last NBA first round pick from the Southern Conference ended up getting cut within two years of being drafted.
Martin returned to Cullowhee more determined than ever to prove he was a new player, and after scoring a career high 46 points in their first game, it was clear to everyone that he had indeed reached a new level. He finished his second season ranked 10th nationally in scoring (22.8), and showed great talent at driving to the rim and earning free throws in big numbers. But his shooting percentages dropped, and Martin knew he had become too much of a driver and he needed to find the right balance between shooting and driving to become a more devastating player. So it was back to Clearwater and more work with Thorpe. As their training finished for the summer, Thorpe and Martin agreed that if the season went as they expected, he'd be able to decalre for the NBA draft and have a real chance at being a first round pick.
Again, Martin showed in his first game that he had ascended to another level. He scored a season-high 44 points at Georgia while hitting 7 of 14 threes in a close loss, then put up 33 points in a Dec. 22, 2003 upset win at Arkansas. Martin spent most of the season leading the nation in scoring and finished in second place (24.9), having had some of his best games against the sort of big-time programs so many recruiters thought he wasn't fit for. As discussed in June with Thorpe, he chose to bypass his senior season and enter the NBA draft.
Despite media projections that had Martin being taken no higher than the second round, including some long-time NBA scouts who publicly exclaimed he'd be lucky to be drafted at all, the Kings selected Martin with their No. 26 pick in the 2004 NBA draft. By 2007, most draft experts considered the pick to be the best pick that franchise had made in over a decade.
Delivering in the Pros
It began in Sacramento
It would take some time for Martin to turn his potential into production. As a rookie during the 2004-05 season, his scant playing time meant it was a time for learning. He soaked up the wisdom of Kings assistant Pete Carril and picked up pointers from veterans like Chris Webber and Bobby Jackson. His harshest lesson came at the end of the season, when Martin was left off the playoff roster for a first round playoff series against the Seattle SuperSonics. Martin's debut campaign hadn't been what he had hoped for, and he would use the disappointment as motivation.
Opportunity would finally come on Dec. 19, 2005. When Bonzi Wells, the Kings shooting guard, went down with a groin injury in a game. His long-term absence would put Martin into the starting lineup as the Kings - who started the season 18-26 - made a strong playoff push. Martin would flourish in the role. When the postseason finally arrived, he wouldn't be left out this time.
While the Kings would fall in the first round to San Antonio in six games, Martin's game-winning shot in Game 3 would serve as the series' most memorable moment for Kings fans and vault Martin into a new period of his career. With the Kings Down 93-92 in the final moments of the game at Arco Arena on April 29, 2006, and in danger of falling behind 3-0 in the series, point guard Mike Bibby poked the ball from Manu Ginobili and began a mad dash down the floor. He found his sprinting teammate along the left side with a pass, and Martin met Tim Duncan at the rim for a twisting, turning, triple-bounce layup at the buzzer that gave the Kings new life against the defending champions. The season would be over after the Spurs recovered to win the next two games, but Martin was just getting started.
In the 2006-07 season, Martin would be a bright spot for the Kings in an otherwise-dim time. While the team finished 33-49 in one season under former coach Eric Musselman, Martin nearly won the league's Most Improved Player award as he continued his rise.
His 20.2 points per game led the team in scoring and were 19th in the league as he shot 47.3 percent overall and 38.1 percent from three-point range. Martin's trademark would become his efficiency, as he averaged just 13.3 shots per game and was one of only two players in the league (the other was Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire) to average 20-plus points per game on less than 14 shots. His scoring increase from his rookie season (2.9 points per game) to his third season was the fourth-best in league history, trailing Hall of Famers Neil Johnston, Cliff Hagan and Nate "Tiny" Archibald and just ahead of Bob McAdoo.
Martin, whose ability to get to the free throw line is among the best in the league, set a new Sacramento-era single-season record for free throws made (481). In the Most Improved voting that was the closest race since the award began in 1986, Martin had 349 votes while Golden State guard Monta Ellis won with 352 votes. With the Kings in a time of transition and Martin clearly getting better every year, he had emerged as a vital piece of the organization's future. The Kings ensured Martin wouldn't be going anywhere soon on Aug. 28, 2007, when he signed a five-year extension that wouldn't expire until 2013.
In Martin's fourth season, he would continue to improve while the Kings' 38-44 record was an improvement as well. While they missed the playoffs for the second straight season, they progressed despite losing Martin, Ron Artest and Bibby for significant time due to injuries and dealing with the February trade of Bibby to Atlanta.
The absence didn't keep Kevin from new strides, as Martin had his best year yet. His scoring jumped yet again to another team-leading 23.7 points per game and in his typical efficient form. Despite the missed time, Martin broke his own Sacramento-era record for free throws made (502) while leading the league in free throws made per game (8.2). He continued to produce from the perimeter as well, shooting 40.2 percent from three-point range. Remarkably, he became the first player in NBA history to make at least eight free throws per game while shooting at least 40 percent from three-point range.
The 2008-2009 season was challenging for the Sacramento Kings (17-65), including a mid-season coaching change. Through it all, Martin continued to advance his game, and make a name for himself within the NBA.
His scoring increased to a career-high and team-leading 24.6 ppg. ranked 7th in the NBA. Despite the team losing a franchise worst 65 games, Martin did all he could to help the team win, scoring in double-figures in 49 games, posting 20 or more points 37 times, recording 30-plus points on 16 occasions, reaching the 40-point plateau twice, and notching 50 points in one game. The career-high 50 points vs. Golden State on 4/1 joined Martin with Chris Webber in sharing the Sacramento-era record of a player to tally 50 or more points in a contest.
Martin continued to establish himself as one of the NBA's premier free throw marksman, becoming only the fourth player in Kings franchise history to tally 400 or more free throws made in three consecutive seasons (2006-07 – 2008-09), joining team greats Mitch Richmond, Jack Twyman, and Oscar Robertson with that distinction.
After a summer of strong work-outs, Kevin had high hopes for the 2009-2010 season. With another new coach, Paul Westphal, things started strong. In the home opener, Martin posted 48 points in a winning effort against the Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately, he also suffered a fractured wrist in that game. Martin had surgery to put pins in his wrist, and was sidelined for 2 ½ months. Upon his return, the Kings had changed their style of play. On February 17th, Martin was traded to the Houston Rockets in a block buster 3 team, 10 player trade.
Houston, here I come...
Martin was ecstatic when Daryl Morey and the Rockets felt that he was their next shooting guard to fill the void they had. Knowing he was going back to Rick Adelman, Elston Turner, and T.R. Dunn, the coaches that taught him so many things when he first entered the league, Martin couldn't wait to get down to Houston!
Having previously played for Adelman, Martin fit right into the Rockets style of play, and was able to hit the ground running. He came off the bench for his first two games, then started the remaining 22. He finished the season shooting an impressive 21.3 ppg, on .435 fg%, while making 92% of his free throws. Martin obviously found his comfort zone with the Houston Rockets and former coach.
The "skinny kid from Zanesville," as Martin called himself after signing his extension, has already achieved more than most thought possible. If the history of his story is any indication, there's much more to come.
Vital Stats & InfoHow tall are you? 6'7"
What are you weighing in at? 185
What size shoe do you wear? 12
Where are you from? Zanesville, Ohio
When is your birthday? February 1, 1983
How old will you be on your next birthday? 28. Man I'm getting old!
What is your middle name? Dallas, that's my grandpa's name
Where did you go to high school? Zanesville High School in Zanesville, Ohio
Where did you go to college? Western Carolina in Cullowhee, NC
When were you drafted into the NBA? I was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the 1st round (26th pick, 26th overall) of the 2004 NBA draft.
What is the thing you like most about the NBA? Traveling to different cities all over the country and of course playing hoops every night.
What is the thing you like the least about the NBA? Nothing, I love this game!
What is the highest number of points you've scored in a single game? I scored 50 points against the Golden State Warriors on April 1, 2009
Who are your real life heroes? My folks Kevin and Marilyn Martin and my Grandparents Maxine, Dallas and Teena Vigus.
Thoughts on being traded? I will never forget my memories in Sacramento from connecting with the community and the great moments I had their as a player making a name for myself in the league. Unforuntley I looked at it as "IT WAS TIME" to move on in my career for many reasons. I needed to go to a place that was on the stage Houston is on, ready to make playoff runs. So I was "estatic" when Daryl Morey and the Rockets felt like I was their next shooting guard to fill the void they had. And knowing I was going back to Rick Aldeman, Elston Turner, and T.R. Dunn the coaches that taught me so many things in this league I couldn't wait to get down to Houston!!!
What is your most amazing NBA personal moment? Well I actually have 4, in no particular order:
1. Getting drafted. It was an amazing feeling.
2. Signing Contract Extension with the Kings.
3. Being the only player in NBA history to make 40 percent from 3 pt and making 9 free throws a game in a season (always good to be in a history category by yourself).
4. Hitting a game winner in the 2005 Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs.
Do you like to surf the net? Yes, I like looking at various travel site and checking out place all around the world.
If you could have any pet what would it be? Monkey
Silliest person? Aaron Brooks, my teammate
What do you like to do on your days off? When I am playing I like to rest. When I'm not playing ball I love to travel and hang out with my friends
Which person knows the most about you? My cousin Brody Beauford.
If you could have one wish granted what would it be? Stay healthy through out my entire career.
Favorite NBA city? My favorite NBA city besides Houston and Sac, is Chicago.
Favorite vacation spot? Maui in Hawaii is a place that everyone should visit!