Denver Nuggets star point guard Jamal Murray might seem like he’s always been destined to be an NBA star.
Murray has averaged 27.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 15 games in the 2023 playoffs, with his Nuggets team set to take on the Miami Heat in Game 1 of this year’s edition of the NBA Finals.
But it hasn’t been the most straightforward path to NBA stardom for the 26-year-old Kitchener, Ontario, native.
Back in April 2021, Murray suffered an ACL tear that sat him out through the entirety of the 2021 playoffs and 2021-22 season.
While teammate Nikola Jokic was working on back-to-back MVP awards, it seemed like the Nuggets would never be able to take that next step NBA contenders do without Murray.
With the team now in their first NBA Finals in franchise history, while losing just three games along the way, it’s safe to say the Nuggets have the chance to prove the doubters wrong.
Asked on Wednesday about the receptions he’s received in Kitchener, Murray was emphatic about his hometown support.
"No one from Kitchener has made it this far, so it's nice to be a pioneer in that sense" 🇨🇦
Jamal Murray speaks on his hometown and what it means to represent Kitchener in the NBA Finals pic.twitter.com/F3dLe4TP1q
— UNINTERRUPTED Canada 🇨🇦 (@UNCanada) May 31, 2023
“It’s been nice. I’ve had a lot of friends text me about watch parties or them just gathering around. So the sport’s been crazy back home. That means a lot, especially from a small town like Kitchener,” Murray told reporters on NBA Finals media day in Denver.
“Small town” might be a bit of a misnomer, as the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge metropolitan area registered a population of 575,847 in the 2021 Canadian census. But it’s not exactly known as a basketball hotbed — much like the rest of Canada, though that perception has been changing over the past two decades. Per RealGM, 62 Canadians have played in the NBA in the league’s 76-year history, though 26 of those players stepped foot on the floor this past season.
“No one known from Kitchener has made it this far. So it’s nice to be a pioneer in that sense,” Murray added. “I’m just excited for that town, I’ll be back there in the summer and see our friends see my friends and family.”
Maybe if Kitchener is lucky enough, he’ll be bringing back a Larry O’Brien trophy with him.