National Basketball Association
Jamal Murray: 'I want to be the best player ever'
National Basketball Association

Jamal Murray: 'I want to be the best player ever'

Updated Mar. 13, 2024 12:39 p.m. ET

Jamal Murray knows his value.

Even though the Denver Nuggets guard has established himself as one of the top players in the league, he hasn't won a single notable individual NBA award, including not making any All-Star teams. 

For Murray, that slight is far from defining. 

"It's not like I need an All-Star nod just to be recognized as one of the best players out there every time I step onto the court," Murray told FOX Sports earlier this month. "That's the mindset I have."


Murray's confidence stems from something more concrete than subjective votes for awards. He has dominated in the playoffs, making a name for himself on the biggest of stages. 

Only seven players in NBA history have averaged at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists per game over at least 50 career playoff games. He's among them. The others? Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Jerry West, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic

When asked if he believes he's underrated, Murray didn't hesitate.

"From maybe media or non-basketball followers, maybe," Murray said. "I think I definitely have the respect of my peers. That's all that matters. If I go on the court and I'm one of the most feared out there, regardless of what other people say, that's all I need."

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After helping lead the Nuggets to their first championship in their 56-year franchise history in June, it seemed as though Murray would be a shoo-in for the All-Star team this February — until he suffered a hamstring injury in November that sidelined him for 13 games.

But Murray's relatively lackluster résumé in terms of personal accolades deeply belies his talent.

In June, he became the fourth player in an NBA Finals series to average at least 20 points and 10 assists, alongside Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. 

He had so many awe-inspiring performances during the Nuggets' championship run. He was the first player in NBA history to record at least 10 assists in his first four Finals games. He had a 30-point triple-double in Game 3. And in Game 4, he finished with 12 assists and zero turnovers, becoming just the third player to record so many assists with so few turnovers in the title round. 

"He has been our best player since Round 1," Jokic, a two-time league MVP, said of Murray ahead of the Finals. 

As for Nuggets coach Michael Malone, he seemingly finds it offensive that Murray has never been named to an All-NBA or All-Star team. In fact, he scoffed when asked if Murray, to a certain extent, is underrated.

"Not to a certain extent," Malone said. "He is underrated. I think that's obvious. What I admire about Jamal is that he uses it as motivation. ...Do I think Jamal Murray is an All-Star? Of course, I do. I think he's shown it time and time again that he's not just a good player, he's elite. I think what can maybe allow Jamal to rest at nighttime is he's done things in the playoffs that guys who have been All-Stars will never do. 

"That's not just winning a championship, but 50-point games, putting the team on his back and truly showing up and showing out on the world's biggest stage. No one can ever take that away from Jamal Murray. Whether he's an All-Star or not, we know that he's a great player and a huge part of any and all success that we have."

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Murray has exceeded even his own expectations.

After suffering a torn ACL in April 2021 that sidelined him that postseason and the entire 2021-22 season, Murray worried that his stock had plummeted and he'd never be the same type of player again. He even questioned whether the Nuggets were going to trade him, which would mean parting ways with the franchise that had selected him as the 7th overall pick in the 2016 draft.

In retrospect, that insecurity was his greatest ally. 

"I think the biggest thing was fear," Murray said. "I think I was scared of not being who I want to be out there. I was worried I was going to be hindered, not moving the way I wanted to, things like that. And that just motivated me to work harder in the weight room and put more work into rehab. I said the work now will show later. And it has been. I think just that mentality of being worried in general, I think that motivated me the most."

The Nuggets showed their loyalty to Murray, standing by him through his rehab. And Murray rewarded them by proving that he hadn't missed a step when he returned last season. In the 2023 playoffs, he averaged 26.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists, arguably surpassing his 2020 NBA Bubble performance that had put him on the map, in which he averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists. 

Now, Murray is no longer questioning himself.

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He's widely considered one of the best basketball players in the history of the league to have never made an All-Star team. And when asked if he thinks he's one of the top current players, he didn't hesitate. 

"Of course," Murray said. "And I strive to be the greatest. I want to be the best player ever. Obviously, if you don't shoot high, then you're never going to get there. I think Jokic is the greatest player right now. And I try to be a close second."

It's a strong statement for Murray, who is prone to humility. He prefers sweatsuits over high-fashion. And he carries himself with an air of approachability, always quick to flash a disarming smile.

But don't mistake that for a lack of a killer instinct. 

Murray, who has career averages of 17.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists, always seems to find another notch in the postseason, where his career averages have skyrocketed to 25 points, five rebounds and 6.3 assists. Now, as the Nuggets prepare for another title run, Murray has his sights set on an award that would mean much more to him than an All-Star nod: Finals MVP. 

He would view that as the ultimate validation, because it would not only mean that he's excelling, but that he helped carry his team across the finish line once again. 

"I think that means more to anybody, not just to me," Murray said. "If you can get a Finals MVP, it means you've accomplished everything. That's when it matters. Anybody can be an All-Star and average big numbers against teams in the regular season. But you go out there and do it for seven games, over and over against teams that are preparing to beat you, preparing to strap you, ready to get the ball out of your hands, preparing to blitz you, bring help? I think that says a lot more to your game than the regular season."

If we've learned anything about Murray, it's that when the stakes are highest, he's at his best. 

Overlook him? He'll have the last laugh. Count him out? He'll put his name in the history books, with or without your help. 

It's something he's hoping to do once again, whether he gets any official credit for it. 

"I think we're well on our way to trying to repeat the championship," he said, as he prepares to do what he does best.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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