Aiming for the Stars
Some of the NBA's brightest stars have been putting up crazy numbers so far in the bubble, specifically in the first round of the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks superstar and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo became the first player since Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor to average 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in a series.
Dallas Mavericks second-year All-Star Luka Doncic was eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers in 6 games, but not before he entered the NBA record books.
And Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James continued to do LeBron James-like things, averaging a triple double against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.
But the biggest star of the playoffs so far has been a Western Conference guard who has yet to even make an All-Star team.
Denver dynamo Jamal Murray has thrown the Nuggets on his back so far this postseason, averaging 34.0 points and 6.7 assists per game, while shooting 56.1% from the field and 54.4% from three-point range.
Over the last three games of Denver's first round series against Utah, Murray has scored 50 points twice – in Games 4 and 6 – with a 42-point performance sandwiched in between in Game 5.
In turn, he's helped dig the Nuggets out of a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7.
The historic hot streak has placed Murray in rarified air, with none other than the man they called 'Air.'
He also has entered the conversation with two other Hall of Famers:
With his name being mentioned among some of the greatest players to ever play the game, the question now floating in the air is if Murray has officially reached superstar status.
Although Murray's streak has been historic, Shannon Sharpe still needs to see a little more.
According to Nick Wright, the fact that a guy like Murray isn't considered a superstar could simply speak to how much talent there is in the current NBA landscape.
"This is the deepest the talent pool has been in the league, you could argue, ever. Going into the postseason you could make a case that there were 20 guys better than Jamal Murray."
Murray's play hasn't just been awe-inspiring.
As Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post points out, Murray has been an inspiration for the city of Denver and, for a country struggling to deal with social injustice.
"Our sports heroes feel the same weight we do. Yes, they are blessed by money and fame. For it all, Murray is grateful. But he is also bestowed with grace rare in a 23-year-old man. His empathy is what makes Murray special beyond the ability to shoot a jumper with accuracy that makes him The Blue Arrow, a nickname befitting an emerging basketball hero."
These emotions poured out of Murray in his Game 6 postgame interview when discussing Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
Debates may rage on about whether Murray is truly a bonafide superstar, but he's certainly playing that way as of late.
And come Tuesday, if Murray can carry Denver to a Game 7 win over the Jazz, there might be no denying the Nuggets star those five extra letters before the word star.