'We have a lot of talent down there': Jamal Murray remembers Kitchener roots heading into Western Conference Final
KITCHENER -- Jamal Murray is quick to point to his Canadian roots when talking about his success on the court.
The Kitchener-born basketball player has found himself in the spotlight in the NBA playoffs this year, but he's still grounded in his hometown.
"We have a lot of talent down there," he said. "It's not just me."
Murray grew up playing at the Stanley Park Community Centre, somewhere he tries to visit whenever he comes back home.
"I'll have rounds with all those guys I know there that I grew up with," Murray said during a media availability from the NBA bubble on Thursday. "It's a lot of fun to be just back in that environment."
Murray's 40-point game helped lift the Denver Nuggets over the LA Clippers on Tuesday night. The Nuggets defeated the Clippers 104-89 in Game 7 to advance into the Western Conference Final.
Murray leads all players in the playoffs with 379 points. Kawhi Leonard currently sits in second with 367 points. Leonard's Clippers were defeated by Murray's Nuggets on Tuesday.
Murray has also scored the most three-pointers with 53.
As a kid growing up in Kitchener, Murray played for Grand River Collegiate before transferring to a specialized basketball school in Orangeville. His post-season performance is drawing attention to Canadian basketball.
"It's cool to be a pioneer of something, especially basketball in Canada," Murray said.
With more eyes turning to Canada, Murray wants to be a role model for young players moving up the ranks.
"When you work hard, the results pay off," he said. "I just want to keep doing what I can for Canada, for Orangeville, for Kitchener."
"It's cool to see all these kids look up to me as someone they want to be like."
Off the court, Murray is known for bringing community programs to Kitchener and southern Ontario.
"I do what I can to make change in the city," he said.
Last year, Murray helped make a new basketball court at Amos Avenue Community Housing Neighbourhood a reality.
"Those kids now have a safe area to play," he said. "Growing up, I had a court like that and it kept me out of trouble a lot of times. Now, it's good to do the same thing for all the young kids that are growing up, that have a dream and want to go somewhere with a basketball."
Murray also said that he's stayed focused on speaking against social and racial injustice in the U.S. and Canada.
"We don't want to lose focus on that," he said. "I've been giving basketball attention for 23 years. This is something that's bigger than me and bigger than us and we know what we need to do to create change."
He was the second-youngest player in NBA history to score at least 40 points in a Game 7. Murray and teammate Nikola Jokic have also won more Game 7s in their careers than Michael Jordan.
After Tuesday's performance, Murray became the first NBA player to follow up a 50-point game with a 40-point game in the playoffs since Michael Jordan in 1993.
The NBA said content about Murray generated 26 million views on their Instagram account between July 31 and Aug. 31, compared to 32.4 million views for the entire 2018-19 season.
The average Canadian viewership for non-Raptors NBA games has increased by 15 per cent year-over-year, across TSN, SportsNet and RDS combined.
While Murray has some ideas of what he wants to do to help his hometown in the future, he said he's not planning on leaving the bubble and coming home any time soon.
"I plan to be here for a little longer," he said.
Next up, Murray and the Nuggets will take on the LA Lakers. That series starts on Friday.