Jamal Murray is a different breed. He’s a focused individual, but loud and, at times, abrasive. He’s precise, like a surgeon, who’s practised his routine many times over and so keeps his mind clear and his hand steady in the most important moments.
When his Denver Nuggets had the game in hand on their home floor against the Los Angeles Lakers last season, Murray dribbled the ball through the legs of an unsuspecting Lonzo Ball — he of the larger than life Ball family — and caused an uproar from fans and media alike that continues to this day. When Murray dropped 48 on the Boston Celtics and, once again the game was already decided, he chose to shoot the ball one more time to join the prestigious 50-point club. It drew the ire of superstar Kyrie Irving to the extent that he threw the ball into the stands.
When former MVP and Mr. Triple-Double Russell Westbrook looked for real estate on the same area of the court where Murray was already standing for a fourth-quarter jump-ball, the Kitchener, Ontario native refused to budge and a shoving match ensued. Once again, he and his Nuggets came away with the victory.
He is going to win, he is going to dominate you, and he’s going to let you know about it.
“It’s kind of weird because they call Canadians soft. They always harp on that, and now they call me evil, so pick one, you can’t have both, man,” Murray said at Scotiabank Arena before facing the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 3. “I just go out there and compete. That’s the biggest thing. I love to challenge people. You get to see who the real people are when you challenge people, they take it with a grain of salt and challenge you back or they just get frustrated, so you see the real people when they get challenged.”
“When I meditate, it allows me to think things through and see things slow as they happen fast, and just be able to anticipate things a little better…”
That desire to challenge people to show who they really are was instilled by his father, Roger Murray.
A serious taskmaster and disciplinarian, Roger had Jamal running up and down hills, doing push-ups in the snow and constantly playing against kids older than him right from age-six when Jamal would play against 10-year-olds. Jamal could have stopped at any point, but that wasn’t in his DNA. It wasn’t who he was.
“I think it was my passion. It was me wanting to go out there and practice and play two, three times a day. It wasn’t my dad telling me, ‘You’ve got to go to the court. You got to go jog, you got to go do this,’” Murray said. “It was me wanting to go do those things and be fine with whatever became of it. Be fine with mosquitoes biting me. Be fine with running the hills. Be fine with being tired running around the block. All that type of stuff. It was stuff that I wanted to do.”
Idolizing someone his father admired, Bruce Lee, was a major factor in developing skin so thick the likes of Canada Goose and North Face may want to have their R&D look into. The Kung fu master was just 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds but became world famous as a result of his mental fortitude to take on people more physically imposing. Lee’s greatest strength was in between his ears. Roger read books to study everything he could about Lee and passed those lessons on to Jamal from a young age. He learned to meditate, visualize from a young age exactly what he was going to do, and figure out exactly how he was going to do things he had done in the past better.
“I was one of the only Canadians to [stay home for high school], just being a pioneer in that sense…Then coming home and playing in front of these great fans, friends and family…I take it with a lot of honour and I try to live up to that every night.”
“When I meditate, it allows me to think things through and see things slow as they happen fast, and just be able to anticipate things a little better,” Jamal told the Bay Street Bull. “You can see a rebound come and you can kind of see it happening in slow motion. So, you have a better chance of getting the ball or whatever your goal is. It also helps me off the court
— my mood and my spirit. Helps me to look ahead of the day with a positive attitude and a positive mindset.”
It’s this mentality that drives him to look ahead and do the things necessary to be the player and person he wants to be one day. Despite his well-known affection for being back home in Canada, Murray spends most of his off-season looking to shape himself into an all-star. He goes through the ringer to prepare for the rigors of an 82-game season, one that at the point guard position has him going up against some of the best players in the league on a night-to-night basis. This past summer, he was soaking in all he could at Houston Rocketspoint guard and future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul’s CP3 Elite Guard Camp. He’s also learned from veteran teammate Wilson Chandler — who’s a vegan — on the value of eating healthy and significantly cut down on his own consumption of meat.
When he does get the chance to come home in the off-season, it’s usually to help grow the game of basketball and reach out to kids in the community. In 2017, he held a clinic for aspiring players at Conestoga College under the BMO NBA Courts Across Canada Program and last summer, he was at the Richmond Oval in British Columbia along with Team Canada teammate Dillon Brooks for the Drive Basketball Camp for kids aged six to 16.
One of Murray’s biggest goals for basketball in Canada is to have it be a country that can cultivate its talent just as effectively as the United States. That’s why, when he had the opportunity to go to the U.S. in high school, he stayed back.
“I was one of the only Canadians to do that, just being a pioneer in that sense,” Murray said. “Then coming home and playing in front of these great fans, friends and family and Steve Nash behind my back and R.J. Barrett coming up and all these other great players that are in the league already and in high school coming up, it’s been good to be in front of that and I take it with a lot of honour and I try to live up to that every night.”
That same night when his Nuggets beat the Raptors in Toronto, Canada officially claimed their spot in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. One thing Canada hasn’t done on the international stage the last few years is live up to the talent that has made it through to the NBA. With his team set on returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season, this figures to be his longest summer yet with the two of the biggest stages in basketball.
What better place to win, to dominate, and let the world know about it?