These twin brothers made history before even stepping foot on an NBA court | CNN (2024)


You would be forgiven for referring to the 2023 NBA rookie cohort as the “Victor Wembanyama draft class.”

After all, the 7-foot-4-inches teenager is the most hyped prospect since LeBron James. He is a walking cheat code who is unlike anything basketball has ever seen before, with 2014 MVP Kevin Durant among those already singing the Frenchman’s praises this season.

However, “Wembymania” is not the only unprecedented narrative from this draft. Amen and Ausar Thompson have their own story to tell.

Though multiple pairs of twins have played together in the NBA, the Thompson brothers became the first siblings to be drafted in the top five of the same draft. They were even drafted back-to-back.

Amen was selected fourth overall by the Houston Rockets, while Ausar came off the board at No. 5 to the Detroit Pistons.

“We really haven’t seen a pair of brothers like this in a long time, maybe ever in the NBA,” Kelly Iko, an NBA and Houston Rockets writer for The Athletic, told CNN Sport.

“It just seems like everything they do translates to winning basketball. Crashing the glass, if it’s helping on defense, rotating, communication, ball movement, facilitation, just trying to find guys and get to great spots.”

The twins had an unorthodox path to the league. After deciding to forgo their last year of high school and renounce their college eligibility, they signed with Overtime Elite (OTE), a startup basketball league for 16 to 20-year-olds based in Atlanta.

These twin brothers made history before even stepping foot on an NBA court | CNN (1)

Amen dunks the ball during an OTE game - the Thompsons were known for their highlight-worthy plays during their time in Atlanta.

They spent two seasons in OTE, playing on separate teams in their first year before Amen joined his brother on the City Reapers, where they were coached by Dave Leitao.

He describes the twins as having “insatiable” work ethics and says they are “very humble, tremendous people.”

“This is my 40th year in basketball, so I think I’ve been around some pretty special individuals,” Leitao said to CNN Sport. “Amen and Ausar, two or three times a week, would do something that I’ve never seen before.

“I’ve been caught on camera saying: ‘I’ve never seen that before, like, did you just see what I saw?!’”

Twin magic

Amen and Ausar were born on January 30, 2003, in Oakland, California, with Amen being the older twin by a solitary minute. They share the middle name XLNC (pronounced “excellence”), which was given to them to convey a sense of power and greatness, according to their father Troy, who is also their agent.

The brothers have often spoken about how inseparable they are, and told the New York Times earlier this year that they had never spent more than two days apart.

Making it to the NBA had always been a shared dream – the twins created a vision board when they were nine years old, with one of the central goals being to “become the greatest NBA player of all time.”

These twin brothers made history before even stepping foot on an NBA court | CNN (2)

Hold me now: The Thompson twins are living the dream.

They played high school basketball together at Pine Crest School after moving to Florida and were both five-star recruits after graduating. They were still very much a duo at OTE (even though they played on different teams during their first year) and are each other’s biggest fan.

However, life in the league means that they now often find themselves on opposite sides of the country, something that the twins made sure to prepare for.

“They were adamant about understanding that they were going to have to separate,” Leitao said. “Now that they’re apart, they talk every day.”

Working Overtime

The college path has long been the traditional way of making it to the league for American basketball players. Nationally televised games, the allure of the NCAA tournament and a plethora of NBA scouts watching you are all part of the appeal.

However, in recent years, we have seen aspiring hoopers choose alternative routes, such as overseas competitions and the developmental G League, to the NBA. It is not that the Dukes, UCLAs and North Carolinas of the world are losing their shine – March Madness will always be March Madness – more so that the next generation is increasingly exploring opportunities off the beaten track.

Overtime Elite was launched in 2021 as another option for young players. It is operated by Overtime, a media company aimed at Gen Z sports fans.

Players receive a minimum $100,000 wage (which they can waive if they wish to retain college eligibility) and access to state-of-the-art training facilities in the 103,000 square-foot OTE Arena in Atlanta. They also get an education that includes “applicable professional skills training” classes, which focuses on topics such as financial literacy, media training and mental wellbeing.

These twin brothers made history before even stepping foot on an NBA court | CNN (3)

Ausar during an academic advisory period at Overtime Elite Academy.

Amen and Ausar became the highest profile players to sign up for the league’s inaugural season back in 2021. They skipped their final year of high school and sacrificed college eligibility after agreeing to be paid a salary.

It was a huge gamble to take: OTE had not yet been established as a viable option for young players, yet here were two highly-rated prospects blazing a trail and taking a risk.

It paid off in a big way for the twins, who dominated the league as high-jumping, shot-swatting, consistently viral, highlight machines that moved at an electric pace and stifled offenses on the defensive end.

Their draft positions were also a huge boost for OTE, which saw two of its prospects selected in the top five after only its second season.

“It’s a really big vote of confidence for OTE,” said Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press to CNN Sport. “[The coaches] talked about how they wanted to come in and really give athletes a modern platform to improve their skills and translate to the pros pretty quickly.”

Leitao agrees that it helped to launch the twins’ careers, saying: “Whether they wanted to be, or we wanted them to be, they’ve become the face of Overtime Elite. It’s great for the growth of basketball, knowing that there’s not just one avenue to take to get to your dream.”

The same, but different

Amen and Ausar are so frequently referred to as “the Thompson twins” that it is almost as if they are one unit. They are identical: both are 6 foot 7 inches tall and both possess otherworldly athletic ability.

“If you’re not careful, you’re looking at the same person!” Leitao said.

On the court is where they begin to diverge.

“Although they have come up together their entire lives, they still have differences,” said Iko. “Amen is more of a primary ball handler, whereas Ausar is more of a point forward type role.”

These twin brothers made history before even stepping foot on an NBA court | CNN (4)

The Rockets seem to have recruited their playmaker of the future with Amen.

Amen, who plays the point guard position, recently suffered an ankle injury but showed flashes – both in preseason and in his brief first string of NBA games off the bench – of what he can provide for a team. Iko has been impressed by the “poise” he has shown.

“His vision is through the roof,” he said. “The biggest thing that’s caught my attention is how quickly he moves the ball and how much he encourages unselfish team play.”

His athleticism almost goes without saying at this point.

“We’re talking about one of the top 10 most explosive players in the league by age 21,” Iko continued.

Ausar, meanwhile, has started every regular season game at small forward for the Pistons and his rebounding and suffocating defensive ability (not typically a characteristic associated with rookies) have caught the eye.

“It just seems like defensively, everything just moves really slow for him,” said Sankofa. “He has really good anticipation as far as knowing where the ball will be, where he needs to be, forcing steals.

“Sometimes, it just seems like he knew what’s going to happen before it happened.”

Ausar has had some flashy highlight plays on the offensive end, which have helped contribute to his side being dubbed the “Showtime Pistons” – a far cry from the notoriously physical “Bad Boys” of the ‘90s.

These twin brothers made history before even stepping foot on an NBA court | CNN (5)

Ausar, shown here guarding Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan, is already taking on some tough defensive assignments.

Iko compares Amen to Deron Williams and Lamar Odom, while Sankofa sees shades of Scottie Pippen in Ausar (a “lofty comparison,” he admitted). Both see natural similarities between the twins and former NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.

Though the Thompsons excel in a multitude of areas, it is almost universally agreed that they need to work on their outside shooting.

Ausar has been left wide open behind the three-point line by defenses so far, and he is not making the opposition pay.

“That cramps the court for everybody else when defenses are able to pack in the way that they’ve been doing against the Pistons so far,” Sankofa says.

Amen also struggles in this aspect, with Iko explaining that the Rockets rookie had been working with lead assistant and shooting guru Ben Sullivan to improve his jump shot mechanics.

Fortunately, the twins have their whole careers ahead of them to iron out their flaws and are as determined as anyone to become the best players they can possibly be.

“They can’t function unless they’re in the gym working on their game,” said Leitao, who appears immensely proud of the brothers.

“I’m aware that you have to check certain boxes sometimes, especially in the NBA with all the money and all the things socially or humanistic that get in the way, but they’re as equipped as anybody to handle that and more when it comes to their growth and development.

“They’re well on their way to becoming special.”

These twin brothers made history before even stepping foot on an NBA court | CNN (2024)


Who are the twins in the NBA league? ›

But recently, the number of NBA twins has swelled. This season alone has featured six pairs: Amen and Ausar, Brook and Robin, Cody and Caleb Martin, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Keegan and Kris Murray, and Julian and Justin Champagnie.

What brothers made it to the NBA? ›

Out of this list, several players had stops with the Kings, like Justin Holiday, Carl Landry, Delon Wright, John Barry, Brent Price, and Rodney McCray. Among current players on the roster, Keegan Murray is the only one with a brother in the league, as his twin Kris plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Have brothers ever played on the same NBA team? ›

The pair of siblings first played together for the entirety of the 2019-2020 NBA season and teamed up again at the start of the 2023-2024 NBA season before Robin was traded. Brook told how much he enjoyed playing on the same team as his brother for the first time since their Stanford days.

Have a father and son ever been on the same NBA team? ›

The NBA has seen many sons tread the same courts as their fathers, carrying on the family legacy. But we've yet to witness a father and son playing in the league at the same time.

How many sets of identical twins have played in the NBA? ›

Amen Thompson is not even the first or second twin picked by the Rockets. The Rockets hope that he will become the most accomplished, but there have been seven sets of twins in the NBA, with three still playing as the Thompsons begin their careers (and as Kris Murray joins his brother Keegan in the NBA).

Who are the twins that play basketball? ›

Haley and Hanna Cavinder are returning to Miami for their fifth and final season of collegiate eligibility, they announced on social media this week. The twins helped Miami in 2023 reach its first-ever Elite Eight in their first season there after spending three years at Fresno State.

What two brothers played in the NBA? ›

Full list of brothers to play in NBA history
  • Shandon and Willie Anderson.
  • Giannis, Kostas and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
  • LaMelo and Lonzo Ball.
  • Brent, Drew and Jon Barry.
  • Charles and Dudley Bradley.
  • Julian and Justin Champagnie.
  • Jarron and Jason Collins.
  • Seth and Stephen Curry.
Feb 27, 2024

What two ball brothers are in the NBA? ›

Ball played for Chino Hills High School in California, where he won a state championship and achieved national success as a junior with his brothers Lonzo and LaMelo, who are both current NBA guards.

Was there a father and son in the NBA? ›

Gary Trent and Gary Trent Jr.

This father-and-son duo has both been solid throughout their NBA careers. Gary Trent was a 10-year NBA veteran big man and his son is a scoring wing who's put up big numbers with the Toronto Raptors.

Does LeBron James and his son play on the same team? ›

It may be LeBron James' dream to play alongside his son Bronny in the NBA, but a father-son pairing isn't the utmost goal for the 19-year-old USC Trojans guard. Instead, Bronny James just wants to be an NBA player, no matter whether it's with the Los Angeles Lakers or any other team.

Does Steph Curry have a brother that plays basketball? ›

Steph Curry Reflects on Brother, Seth Playing for The Charlotte Hornets - Sports Illustrated Charlotte Hornets News, Analysis and More.

What are the brothers that own NBA team? ›

The Spirits of St.

The Silna brothers moved the Cougars to St. Louis, Missouri, because it was then the largest city in the United States without a professional basketball team and they thought this would make their team more likely to join the NBA.

Has anyone ever played with their kid in the NBA? ›

One of the earliest and most notable occurrences dates back to 1986 when Hall of Famer, Rick Barry, played with his son, Brent Barry, on the Houston Rockets. This rare occurrence marked the beginning of a trend that, while infrequent, has left a lasting impression on the league.

Is there a father son rule in NBA? ›

Each draft pick is assigned a value (with No. 1 starting at 3000 points, declining exponentially until No. 74 which has no value), which is regressed from historical player salary data. During the draft, any club may bid for a father–son eligible player with any draft pick.

How many twins are in the NBA currently? ›

Other twins who played in the NBA include Horace and Harvey Grant and Jason and Jarron Collins. Including the Murrays, there are five current pairs of twins in the NBA: Brook and Robin Lopez, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Caleb and Cody Martin, and rookies Amen and Ausar Thompson.

Who are the NBA Thompson twins? ›

Amen and Ausar Thompson have their own story to tell. Though multiple pairs of twins have played together in the NBA, the Thompson brothers became the first siblings to be drafted in the top five of the same draft. They were even drafted back-to-back.

Who are the rookie twins in the NBA? ›

Ausar and Amen Thompson will forever be tied together … obviously. The rookie twin brothers were back-to-back picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. They took identical routes getting to the NBA.

Who do the Murray twins play for? ›

Keegan Murray (born August 19, 2000) is an American professional basketball player for the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for the Iowa Hawkeyes before he was selected fourth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2022 NBA draft.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kareem Mueller DO

Last Updated:

Views: 6608

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kareem Mueller DO

Birthday: 1997-01-04

Address: Apt. 156 12935 Runolfsdottir Mission, Greenfort, MN 74384-6749

Phone: +16704982844747

Job: Corporate Administration Planner

Hobby: Mountain biking, Jewelry making, Stone skipping, Lacemaking, Knife making, Scrapbooking, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Kareem Mueller DO, I am a vivacious, super, thoughtful, excited, handsome, beautiful, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.