Sibling Love

By Matt Sanchez, utahjazz.com

April 10 is National Sibling Day, and to celebrate we interviewed siblings of two Jazzmen.

Heather (Hayward) Hartnagel and Tierra Exum aren't just ordinary siblings - they happen to be twin sisters to Gordon and Danté.

It's estimated that 32 out of every 1,000 people born in the United States are twins. Long story short, having a twin isn't that uncommon. However, a male professional athlete who has a twin sister...that's much more rare.

Furthermore, the chances that two professional athletes, who play on the same team and each have twin sisters, I don't know if that's ever happened.

So, we wanted our favorite twin sisters to shed some light on their brothers. 

What was it like growing up with these guys? Do they still see who can close their car door fastest or practice their knock-knock jokes with each other?

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It's fun to hear the stories of their childhood antics and interesting that their relationships as twins are pretty similar.

At a young age, Gordon and Danté were very protective of their sisters and made sure they were included in whatever activity they were doing. It didn't matter if it was the "cool" thing to do, they made sure their sisters knew they were important.

Another set of qualities that both their sisters couldn't talk enough about was leadership and loyalty. When they were growing up, Gordon and Danté wanted to have fun, but they still showed those qualities that set the foundation for them to attain the highest of athletic achievements.

"Danté has always been outgoing and was always the leader of the group," Tierra said. "I was shy and wouldn't always speak up to play a game with the boys, but because of his personality he always made sure I was included. He always made me feel valued, and no matter what he was doing with his friends, he made sure I wasn't left alone."

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Heather recalls Gordon not leaving her out of games, and he would always pick her first at recess pick-up basketball games. He was always there for her and was protective...sometimes a little too much.

"Everybody knew not to mess with me or even talk to me if they were a guy," Heather said. "I went to the homecoming dance one year with my friends and at the dance were his tennis team members. I didn’t have anyone to dance with and asked them to dance, but all of their responses were no because they didn’t want Gordon to beat them up. So I told them that if I danced with all of them Gordon wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. At the banquet that year, our tennis coach ordered T-shirts for all of the guys who danced with me at the homecoming dance. On the back of the T-shirt it read, 'I danced with Heather'. Gordon wasn't a happy camper."

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The Haywards were very competitive all the way through high school and "competed at everything" in life. From ping pong and video games to tennis, there was always something to play and try to beat each other at.

"I believe the only thing that I have won is graduating sixth in our class whereas Gordon graduated 12th," Heather said. "Now I always brag that I'm smarter and older, I always have that one I can throw in there."

Tierra remembers Danté being the practical joker and the mischievous one in class.

"He loves to play jokes and then pretend to be so sweet with a look of innocence - 'it wasn't me...'" Tierra said. "One time in third grade, Danté (the class clown) gestured for me to come take a seat by him. As I went to sit down, he pulled the chair out from under me and I fell to the ground. We both laughed and he helped me up. He always was there to make sure I was OK even if he had just practiced his wrestling moves on me."

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With the demanding schedule of the NBA (and, for Tierra being in a different country) the twins don't talk as much as they used to, but still find time to text or check in with each other. The summertime is when they get to catch up and hang out as "normal" siblings. They share old memories about childhood games and create new ones over "anything and everything."

Like most siblings, the Haywards and Exums have a special bond and are happy that they "got to be" twins to experience life together and can't imagine growing up without their twin sidekick. They were always best friends and admit that being a twin created a special bond that is unlike that of a "normal" sibling.

Both sisters are also through the roof with excitement and pride at what their brothers have achieved.

"While watching him, I’m just looking and thinking, 'That’s my twin brother out there' and I'm extremely proud," Tierra said. "It makes me unbelievably happy to know that through hard work and dedication you can achieve what you want, which is what he has done. He's living his childhood dream, and it inspires me to continue working hard to achieve my dreams."

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"I'm so proud of Gordon," Heather said. "Many people give up on their dreams, but Gordon never stopped believing in his. I'm proud of how hard he has worked to get where he is, the humility he has playing in the NBA and his attitude on the court. I hope he can change the way NBA players are perceived, and that he can be that change in the league." 

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Danté and Gordon come from different places - Australia and Indiana couldn't be farther apart. They had different customs, traditions and ways of doing things. They learned different ways of playing basketball. But they are both here, now, in Utah and are ready to take the team where it hasn't been in a long time. They help to form a talented foundation that has Jazz fans excited about what the future has in store. 

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