Exactly one week after Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by police, Canada’s Jamal Murray delivered a memorable NBA playoff performance and followed it up with an equally memorable post-game interview Sunday night.
Standing on the court with the faces of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on the side of his shoes, having just scored 50 points to lead his team to victory in a must-win game over the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets’ Murray was asked how he was able to play through all that had happened in the wake of the NBA players’ walkout to protest social injustice and police brutality against Blacks.
“These shoes mean a lot. With all the…,” Murray paused, while in the middle of an NBA on TNT postgame interview. “These shoes mean a lot.”
Trying to catch his breath, the emotion of the moment enveloping him, Murray hunched over and put his hands on his knees. For more than 10 seconds, he stayed there collecting himself.
“I just want to win,” Murray said when the interview resumed. “In life, you find things that hold value to you, things to fight for. We found something worth fighting for, as the NBA, as a collective unit. I use these shoes as a symbol to me to keep fighting, all around the world.”
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Murray, 23, and his Denver Nuggets team keep fighting. Once down 3-1 in their series against the Utah Jazz, they’ve now won back-to-back games to force a seventh and deciding game Tuesday night.
Murray, who was born and raised in Kitchener, Ont., has been nothing short of sensational during these playoffs. In fact, prior to Sunday’s inspired performance Murray had already scored 50 points in a game during the series, followed up by 42 in the next one.
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Only 11 teams in NBA history have come back from 3-1 series deficits.
Game 6, which was played Sunday night, was originally scheduled for Thursday evening but was postponed when many in the sporting world walked away from the game.
Wednesday afternoon, in the wake of the Blake police shooting and protests across North America, the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t take to the court. The dominos fell immediately leading to an unprecedented week in sports as players in professional leagues across North America demanded action.
The level of motivation to step back on the court was in question as players spoke candidly to the media about this all being more than just a game.
So when Murray and his team finally did take to the court late Sunday, many wondered how a team once down 3-1 and having not played for five days would react.
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Then Murray scored 50. And he kept talking about his shoes and what Floyd and Taylor meant to him.
“I use these shoes as a symbol to keep fighting,” he said, fighting back tears.
“It’s not going to take one night. We’ve been trying to fight for 400 years. But these shoes give me life. Even though these people are gone. They give me life. They help me find strength to keep fighting in this world.”
The fear expressed by many players entering the Florida basketball bubble was that those names would get lost in nightly highlights and that the spotlight would be taken away from the issues these players are fighting for — and for weeks that’s exactly what happened. So they stepped away from the game.
The breaking point came when Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In the bubble, where players are in close confines, they decided to take action in a remarkably unified way.
“It’s not just in America. It happens everywhere. For us to come together, the NBA, it doesn’t take one meeting, it takes a couple meetings, a few meetings. It takes phone calls. It takes persistence,” Murray said.
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