From Team Canada To NBA Finals: The Rise Of Ontario’s Jamal Murray To Stardom

Written By C.J. Pierre on June 2, 2023 - Last Updated on June 5, 2023
Jamal Murray Team Canada

It is time to give some respect to Jamal Murray. The point guard for the Denver Nuggets has gone through the wringer over the past few years. Now, he and his team are on the doorstep of winning an NBA Championship as they take on the Miami Heat. Denver is already up 1-0 in the NBA Finals after last night’s 104-93 victory in Colorado.

Murray had 26 points and 10 assists in Game 1.

Canada saw one of its own win it all last year when Andrew Wiggins, from Vaughan, ON helped lead the Golden State Warriors to a championship. Can Murray make it two in a row for big Canadian basketball stars?

However, this feels different for Murray. It has been a long road from first bursting onto the scene with Team Canada to now, where we see him playing a vital role on a team leading the NBA Finals odds.

Murray pumped to represent his Canadian hometown in NBA Finals

It hasn’t been the most straightforward path to potential NBA superstardom for the 26-year-old Kitchener, ON native. During the Nuggets’ media availability on Wednesday, Murray talked about the great hometown support he’s received in Kitchener.

“It’s been nice. I’ve had a lot of friends text me about watch parties or them just gathering around,” said Murray. “So the sport’s been crazy back home. That means a lot, especially from a small town like Kitchener.

Kitchener isn’t exactly known as a basketball hotbed, much like the rest of Canada. However, that perception has been changing over the past two decades. According to RealGM, 62 Canadians have played in the NBA in the league’s 76-year history. However, 26 of those players stepped foot on the floor this past season.

Murray hopes to be the first to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy to his hometown.

“No one known from Kitchener has made it this far. So it’s nice to be a pioneer in that sense,” said Murray. “I’m just excited for that town, I’ll be back there in the summer and see our friends see my friends and family.”

Murray’s talent flashed with Team Canada

Before Murray lit up the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, he was a highly touted prospect in Ontario. His undeniable gifts earned him an invitation to compete for Team Canada. Murray represented Canada at the 2013 FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship in Uruguay and averaged 17 points, six rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, leading the team to a bronze medal.

He later played for the Canadian national team at the 2015 Pan American Games. He shined in the tournament, averaging 16.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 45.9% from the field. The team’s run included an overtime win over Team USA on the way to winning a silver medal.

Jamal Murray 2015 Pan Am Games Basketball
Canada’s Jamal Murray tries to keep the ball in bounds during the fourth quarter of the men’s basketball gold medal game against Brazil at the Pan Am Games, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Toronto. Brazil took the gold with an 86-71 win. (Julio Cortez / AP Photo)

He carried this momentum into his collegiate career at the University of Kentucky. As a freshman in 2015–16, he averaged 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 40.8% from three-point range. Following the season, Murray was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press.

Murray’s future with Team Canada remains bright. He is in the middle of a three-year commitment to play with the Canadian senior men’s national team. Murray could help the Canadian team qualify for its first Olympics since 2000.

Move over Steve Nash; it’s time for ‘Murray Magic’

‘Murray Magic’ is not an official nickname. We’ll work on that. However, he is not far away from earning his own, just as ‘Captain Canada’ Steve Nash earned his. But is Murray on his way to becoming the next Steve Nash?

The answer is a huge yes. Murray fits in perfectly in today’s era of basketball. He is an electric playmaker who can score anywhere on the floor. He is also improving defensively, which is a part of the game where Nash struggled.

Nash has the accolades, which include two MVPs, being an eight-time All-Star and a seven-time All-NBA selection. Murray doesn’t have any of those things yet. However, with the run he is currently on, it is easy to believe that he will start to get the recognition he deserves sooner rather than later. The only thing that could hold Murray back is injury.

Before missing part of the 2020-21 season and all of last season recovering from a torn ACL, Murray put on a show in the NBA bubble.

He scored 26.6 points a game while shooting 45.3% from three. His efforts were highlighted by an astounding three-game stretch in Denver’s epic first-round series against the Utah Jazz when he averaged 47.3 points on 62.9% shooting from three-point range to lead the Nuggets back from a 3-1 deficit. He scored 40 points in a Game 7 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before scoring only 25 points and averaging 7.4 assists as Denver fell in five games to the eventual champion Lakers.

Jamal Murray 2023 NBA Finals MVP Odds

Murray has not been named to an All-Star team during his NBA career. He also hasn’t been named to an All-NBA team. If he can stay healthy, that will all change.

Murray is returning to the ‘Bubble Murray’ form and will need to play a key factor if the Nuggets hope to beat the Heat and claim the franchise’s first NBA Championship. If he plays like he did in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, he could put himself in position to win Finals MVP.

According to online sportsbooks in Canada, Murray’s odds of winning Finals MVP are at . Before the start of the series, he had the third-best odds only trailing his Superstar teammate, two-time league MVP Nikola Jokić and the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler.

But according to FanDuel Sportsbook, folks are hopping on the Murray train. FanDuel says 16% of the handle is on Jamal Murray to be named NBA Finals MVP. That is second only behind Jokić. That is likely because the Nuggets are heavy favourites to win the series, and the award is almost always given to a player on the winning team.

I don’t think this is a bad bet. Miami will likely put much of its focus on Jokić. The means Murray could easily become the driving force for Denver in this series.

However, Murray will probably see Butler defending him often, so scoring will not be easy. Regardless, this NBA Finals is just the thing Murray needs to vault from being a solid NBA player to an NBA Superstar.

Photo by AP Photo/Julio Cortez
C.J. Pierre Avatar
Written by
C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at Play Canada. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

View all posts by C.J. Pierre
Privacy Policy