Jamal Murray, the star point guard from Kitchener, Ont., became an NBA champion on Monday after the Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat in a game five thriller.
The 26-year-old was the ninth Canadian player to ever win an NBA championship, doing so in record-breaking fashion.
“Coming from a small town in Canada, Kitchener, Ontario, all the hours I put in just to be the best I can be and to be the best basketball player in the world… it’s surreal,” he said to reporters after the game.
During his championship run, Murray made history for his home country, setting the all-time record for most points by a Canadian in the finals by dropping 34 points in game three.
He also became the fourth player, and the first Canadian, to ever average 20 points and 10 assists in the finals.
Murray joined the highly exclusive list of Canadians who have accomplished basketball’s ultimate goal, which also includes Andrew Wiggins, who won the championship last year with the Golden State Warriors.
Omar Miles, coach of the Humber Hawks, feels this could be an encouraging sign for youth basketball in Canada.
Miles remembers coaching Murray and seeing his potential while he played again older competition as a tenth grader in a senior boys all-star game.
“All of his peers and kids younger than him got to see him grow. It’s going to definitely inspire a bunch of kids from his area, from Ontario and from Canada,” he said.
This was a sentiment that was echoed by Diedre Donaldson, the athletics coordinator of Orangeville Prep, Murray’s former high school and Canadian basketball powerhouse.
“We are very proud of Jamal and are excited for all he’s accomplished,” he said to Humber News. “Through our clinics, camps, and leagues, we strive to develop more outstanding Canadian players just like him.”
The number of outstanding Canadians in the NBA has steadily grown in recent years.
The 2022-23 season started with a record 23 Canadian players on NBA team rosters. In 2016, only 26 Canadian players had ever played in the league.
The growth of new professional talent can also be seen outside of the professional basketball world.
According to the International Basketball Federation, the under-18 Canadian girls and boys teams currently rank fifth and seventh, respectively. This is the highest standing for either of the youth basketball programs in the country’s history.
“The ecosystem is growing,” says Miles. “We’re producing not just players but coaches, managers, sports broadcasters.”