After starring for the Denver Nuggets in their historical first-ever NBA championship, Jamal Murray held back the tears as he explained just how much of a mountain he had to climb just to make it back onto the court.
Murray tore the ACL in his left knee on April 21, 2021, and did not play again for the Nuggets until a pre-season game on October 3, 2022. During those 531 days Murray had to deal with the mental challenge of an arduous recovery process, as well as all the outside noise about whether he would even make it back.
“It’s just an amazing feeling, you know?” Murray said post-game after the Nuggets sealed the 2023 title in front of a rapturous home crowd with victory in Game 5 over Miami Heat.
“Blood, sweat and tears to get back to this point,” continued a visibly emotional Murray, with the elated cheers of Nuggets fans ringing out.
“Everybody on my team in here, everybody on the floor believed in me. Believed in me to get back to myself.
“We proved a lot of doubters wrong.”
Jamal Murray was helped off the court after an apparent knee injury with 50 seconds left against the Warriors. pic.twitter.com/sz7akzOiq4— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 13, 2021
How Jamal Murray silenced the critics with his NBA title
Murray’s pathway back to full fitness was far from smooth. The 26-year-old, a first-round pick by the Nuggets in 2016, missed the remainder of the Denver franchise’s 2021 games, all 82 regular season games and all five post-season games of the 2021-22 campaign, and headed into the 2022-23 season ready to prove his critics wrong.
Murray had to face questions over why he hadn’t returned to action towards the end of the regular season in April 2022, despite being cleared to play. The Canadian has since revealed he didn’t feel 100% mentally, and it’s that strength of character which has stood him in such good stead for what then became a stellar 2022-23 campaign.
Together with team-mate and Finals MVP Nikola Jokic, Murray formed a record-breaking duo on their way to the ultimate prize.
How Murray and Jokic combined to devastate their NBA Finals opponents
In Game 3 of the Finals, Murray and Jokic were on fire to such an extent that they became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to register 30-point triple-doubles in the same game. That they also contributed to the Nuggets’ biggest win in franchise history with a 109-94 victory over the Heat just served to underline Murray’s incredible journey back from an injury from which others have never fully recovered.
Jokic has since been named the MVP of the Finals, after completely dominating the series, with Murray averaging 26.1 points, 7.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds across 20 post-season appearances.
Those stats, while impressive enough on their own, still don’t tell the full story of Murray’s fantastic 2022-23 season. With a further two years on his Nuggets contract, the Denver outfit are in great shape to continue their current build and convert to multiple-championship winners.