On and off the court, the reigning NBA champion has built a reputation as one of the most laid-back stars in the league. The Denver Nugget sat down with Boardroom to discuss his advisory role with Wilson, his hopes for the current NBA season, and more.
Jamal Murray doesn’t get fazed by much anymore. At 26, the Denver Nuggets guard is one-half of one of the most threatening duos in the NBA. Whatever boastful language he may use when speaking on opponents, the former Kentucky Wildcat certainly follows that with an incredible performance on the court.
Soon after the start of the 2023-24 NBA season, Murray made franchise history, passing Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf to become 9th place on the Nuggets’ all-time scoring list. A reigning NBA Finals champion and slowly becoming one of the best scorers in Denver history, it’s hard to fathom why Murray has never made a single NBA All-Star game, or even been named to a single All-NBA team.
Nonetheless, it hasn’t dented the Canadian international’s spirit. In fact, he told Boardroom, he’s playing this year with an attitude of contentment.
“That’s the goal. I like to play the game with a lot of fun,” Murray said Tuesday from the team hotel in Minneapolis. “When you’re free-flowing and trusting your instincts, you’re light, you’re loose, you’re interacting with the fans, and you’re engaged in huddles and timeouts. Everybody has a common goal as well, so you don’t have to overthink what to say or try to intervene. You just kind of speak your mind and let things come. And that’s part of my job of being a leader. I can’t be setting the tone negatively, so I try to have a consistent energy and flow.”
Compared to some of the NBA’s past champions, the Nuggets fly under the radar in terms of “star power.” Sure, he and Nikola Jokic successfully took down the Jimmy Butler-led Miami Heat to win the team’s first-ever championship; however, the odds aren’t (currently) in their favor to repeat. FanDuel currently lists the Nuggets third, with +500 odds to take home a second trophy. Murray says the team doesn’t put pressure on themselves to chase another title, or even continue their reign as the best sports franchise in The Mile High City.
“It’s just more exciting,” he asserts. “It makes the game more interesting and it brings the best out of the guys. So I would say it helps more than anything to set our own standard for success. It’s nice to be held to that, too, especially by our own fans. It makes it easier to put on a good show every time.”
Keeping an Eye on the Gold
Following a successful ending to the 2022-23 season, Murray made the decision to forgo participation in this year’s FIBA World Cup, trusting the country’s newest crop of talent including RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to lead the nation. Without him, Canada secured the bronze, its first international men’s tournament medal since 1936.
Reminiscing on that impressive run that culminated in a 127-118 win against Team USA, Murray noted the different “vibes” between his college days, his current stint with the Nuggets, and playing for a national side. “Countries play with a lot more heart,” he said. “There’s a lot more on the line. So it’s always fun to come together as one and try to compete for a medal and prove every other country wrong.
“I’ve grown up with a lot of these guys and we’ve been playing together for a while, so we all have a good rapport together.”
It’s been eight years since Murray suited up for Canada. He was 18, Kentucky-bound, and recorded 22 points to help them beat Team USA 111-108 in an overtime thriller for the silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games.
After years away from national play coupled with fond memories of playing alongside an arguably stronger side, could we see Murray make his triumphant return to national play at next year’s Olympics? He was coy with his response but didn’t shake his head no. So, anything is possible.
From Sharpshooter to Coveted Advisor
Throughout our conversation, Murray was playing around with the newest Nuggets City Edition basketball that hit shelves this week. The customized balls are manufactured by Wilson, which provides the official game balls for the NBA. Murray serves as a member of the brand’s advisory staff. As a major part of his role, Murray tests basketball-specific equipment before it hits the market, which includes the genuine leather game ball he’ll use to ultimately reach No. 8 on Denver’s all-time scoring list.
“It’s really cool,” Murray said of his partnership with Wilson. “I was one of the first people they sent the ball to try out and [got to] play with it to see how it moves. I think a lot of key details get left out when athletes don’t get to have a say in the ball’s design, which obviously is a big part of the game. And working with Wilson has been great so far. We’re just looking to expand on what we can do together and keep the relationship going.”
However, Wilson is only one of Murray’s mounting portfolio of off-court ventures. Murray also boasts a major endorsement with New Balance. The two agreed on a multiyear partnership in December 2020. Murray joined Kawhi Leonard as a notable player in the West on the company’s basetball roster. Pointing to his slip-on shoes during our conversation, Murray attributed his laid-back mentality as a catalyst to why he and the Boston-based brand are the perfect match in his career ascent.
“My style is pretty chill. I like to have things catered to my liking, but not be too flashy or fancy. … New Balance gives me the right stuff I need to excel on the court. Everything feels fine and comfy. They’re trying to expand a lot in the basketball area, and I’m happy to be a part of that process.”
Both Wilson and New Balance trust Murray based on his ever-growing résumé of success on the court to help them build the best products to fuel the future of the sport. He’s proven himself as a trustworthy advisor without the braggadocios flair of some of his NBA compatriots.
As for businesses he decides to work with? “Whatever feels right,” Murray responded.
A fitting answer for the ambassador of easygoing.
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