Jamal Murray has a message for the NBA, and Canadian kids with a dream

Jamal Murray has a message for the NBA, and Canadian kids with a dream
He’s being mentioned in the same breath as two-time NBA most valuable player and Hall of Famer Steve Nash, and it’s been pointed out that he’s the second-youngest player — behind the future Hall of Famer LeBron James — to score 40 points in Game 7 of a playoff series.

If Jamal Murray is in the least bit overwhelmed by it all, he sure doesn’t show it.

“It’s cool to turn some heads,” the perpetually unruffled native of Kitchener said in a conference call Thursday night.

And turn heads the 23-year-old has done without doubt.

His ascendant play is no small reason why the Denver Nuggets are about to start the Western Conference final against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. It’s why they were able to wipe out 3-1 deficits against both the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers, and why it’s folly to count them entirely out against the Lakers.

“Coming from Canada, I’ve already, always had people doubt me, or doubt my ability or what we can do on the court,” he said. “So as a group, when we win these games — fight back, play a certain way — it’s cool to see everybody react to that and make these non-believers into believers, and all these criticizers have kind of (had to) eat their words.

“Nobody believed we could be here, and time and time again we’ve shown we have that capability. And now there’s four teams left, so we’re blessed to be part of that and we’re just going to keep letting our game talk.”

But Murray’s contribution goes beyond just what he’s doing for the Nuggets and in the NBA. It is not lost on anyone that he is a young star who took an untraditional route to the league, starring at what was then a little-known prep school in Orangeville before earning a one-and-done year at Kentucky.

He didn’t leave home in his early teens to attend some prep school basketball factory in the United States. He caught eyes by staying home.

It may end up being his lasting legacy in the game in these parts.

“I was a little kid just like them, playing in the streets. I was out there at the courts every day, not knowing I’d be in the Western Conference finals at 23 years old,” he said. “All those young kids out there that have a dream in basketball or a dream in the sport, I was a kid just like them … I put in the work.

“Trust the process, and kind of demanded more of myself to put myself in a position to succeed.”

Murray’s efforts to raise awareness of social justice issues and to fight racism during this NBA restart have been laudable. He wears shoes bearing the names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd as a reminder of two Black lives lost at the hands of police, and his emotional statement in support of Black Lives Matter after Denver eliminated Utah in the first round resonated far beyond the game.

He understands his responsibility to use his platform to draw attention to those fights, and he understands his responsibility as a role model for young Canadians as well.
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