INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, HOST:
The most exciting moment of tonight's NBA All-Star game just might be the first moment. Two brothers from opposing teams - Chicago's Pau Gasol and Memphis' Marc Gasol will square off for the opening jump ball. And they're not the only siblings in the NBA. The Phoenix Suns have two sets of brothers on their team - Doug Tribou and Curt Nickisch of NPR's sports program Only A Game have more.
DOUG TRIBOU, BYLINE: At this recent Phoenix Suns home game, there are two players with Morris on the back of their jerseys - Markieff and his brother Marcus. They're identical twins right down to their matching tattoos.
CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: And then there are two guys with Dragic on their backs - Goran and Zoran.
(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL GAME)
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: The Dragon - Goran Dragic.
NICKISCH: Goran's three years older and when he took up basketball in his native Slovenia, guess what his little brother did? Zoran says he copied Goran.
ZORAN DRAGIC: He go to basketball, and I just decided I'll come to basketball too.
NICKISCH: They play the same position. They're both left-handed so when the brothers turned pro and played each other in the Slovenian league, they had to guard each other. It was hard for their parents. I mean, who do you cheer? The feisty rivalry continued even when they played on the same team on the Slovenian National Team. Here's Goran.
GORAN DRAGIC: I mean, if you're winning, you're cool, but if you're losing, then it was his fault. And he was saying it was saying it was my fault. But I know that's brothers' love.
TRIBOU: It's very different for the Morris brothers who grew up in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. They don't compete against each other, maybe because they're twins or because they've almost always been teammates. They played together in high school and for Kansas in college. And in the NBA draft, they went back to back in the same order they were born. The Phoenix Suns took Markieff and Houston picked Marcus. Two years later, a trade brought Marcus to the Suns. Markieff says his prayers are answered.
MARKIEFF MORRIS: It was just a gift. We was super excited. You know, we definitely vowed, you know, if we could get on the same team, it would be almost impossible to break us up again.
TRIBOU: Markieff plays close to the basket. Marcus is more of an outside shooter, and he's a better dribbler. Different skills, but they're identical twins, and that created confusion for Suns rookie point guard Tyler Ennis whenever one of the twins grabbed a rebound with a chance for a fast break.
TYLER ENNIS: When I first got here, I couldn't tell them apart. You know, one day I'd play with Marcus, and he'd get it and be like, when I catch it you can run. I'd play with Markieff the next day, and he's like, yo, when I catch it, you got to come back and get it. So it is a little different, but now that I can tell them apart, you know, it's blatantly obvious to me who - you know, which is which.
TRIBOU: Reuniting the brothers has paid off. With both of them wearing Suns purple and orange, Markieff's average points per game have nearly doubled.
NICKISCH: The Morris' feed off of each other. But Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek says the Dragices challenge each other.
JEFF HORNACEK: Goran and Zoran are probably more typical brothers 'cause they hit each other. (Laughter) But, you know, the Morrises, they tend to, you know, let each other score and not guard and make each other look good. So they're different in that way.
TRIBOU: In all, 70 sets of brothers have played in the NBA. There are a lot of theories as to why so many have made it. Some say genetics - height and athleticism can run and families. And if one brother gets a look from a scout, the little brother just might get a look too. And it could have something to do with parenting styles.
NICKISCH: Or maybe it's just sibling rivalry, just trying to beat your brother makes you a better player. Whatever the reason, the Phoenix Suns made NBA history last month. For the first time, two sets of brothers played on the court for the same team at the same time. For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch.
TRIBOU: And I'm Doug Tribou.
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