The similarities may have caught Kevin Martin's attention, but it was the differences that inspired him.
On Sept. 26, the Kings shooting guard was passing time on the Internet when his browsing came to a halt. Martin had stopped to read a story in the Bee about Matt Palm, but he quickly found himself fixated on one particular picture.
It featured Palm in a hospital bed, his skinny frame and light-skinned complexion reminding Martin of himself but everything around Palm so very different. The tubes in his neck that gave him breaths of life but made him look so close to death. The friends who surrounded him with looks of grave concern, holding his hand and both knees as if they could make him whole again with their sheer will.
Palm, a local 18-year-old who has battled a rare paralyzing affliction called Guillain-Barre' syndrome since November 2005, had lost far more than his ability to play point guard for Mira Loma High School. Speech. Walking. Dunking. At 5-foot-10, he could dunk and run the floor well enough his coach could foresee a mid-major scholarship in his future.
All of it was gone.
But nearly three years later, his recovery that was chronicled in the story was remarkable. Palm, whose speech has returned and who attends classes at American River College, was on his way back. And Martin - already in a reflective state with the recent loss of his grandfather - was touched.
"I clicked on the video (about Palm online), saw that he was talking better and how he's going around in his wheelchair," Martin said after Thursday's practice. "That just touched me. He mentioned how, 'You can't take anything for granted.' And I looked at it like, 'I'm where I want to be in basketball, but it can get taken away just like that.' That story really touched me."
When the Kings host Oklahoma City tonight at Arco Arena, Palm and his family will be Martin's guests in their courtside seats. Yet the invitation didn't come as part of the NBA Cares campaign or any event managed by the team's public relations staff. It came because Martin took a more personal route, e-mailing the writer, Quwan Spears, directly with the following note.
Hello this is Kevin Martin with the Sacramento Kings. Read your story today and I have never been touched by someone of his age, used to dealing with little kids:) ha! But it was a great piece and I want to know if you could see if him and his family would like to come to our first preseason game on the 10th? I know of his conditions so just tell them that everything will be (taken) care of. You can just email me on this account. Thanks and have a great day! Also tell Sam Amick to do some work:)
For one night, Martin wants to make basketball fun again for Palm.
"I know everybody says it, but there really is more to life than basketball," Martin said. "I feel like I can help his family get through a tough time and they can enjoy this moment. That family's been through a lot." - Sam Amick