The last was Steve Nash.
He won two MVPs and lead his Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals. Arguably the most creative passer and most accurate shooter the game has ever seen, Nash certainly would have been in the conversation of the best point guard of all-time had he won a championship in his prime.
He was the last Canadian icon. He was the player who brought Canada’s name to prominence in the best professional basketball league in the world, cementing his name among the all-time greats while he was at it.
It seemed as though Canada had another gem in Andrew Wiggins when he was drafted 1st overall in 2014, but even he hasn’t lived up to expectations as he is unable to lift his team to new heights despite averaging 19.7 points per game throughout his career. He was supposed to be the one after Nash that displayed Canada’s greatness in basketball. Alas, it was not to be.
There was a record of 16 Canadian players on NBA rosters to start the 2019-2020 season which is the most by any nation not named the United States. Canada has had an outburst of talent over these last few years and some could say that the country has entered a golden age in the game of basketball. Prominent players like Tristan Thompson, Kelly Olynyk, and Cory Joseph have brought Canada’s name to the stage.
Up until now, there had been no Canadian superstar since Steve Nash retired at the age of 39 in 2014. But, one seems to be emerging.
The 7th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Jamal Murray, is having a playoff series that nobody has seen since the days of Michael Jordan.
The 6-foot-4 Denver Nuggets starting point-guard was due for a breakout as he had been playing like a competent starter in his 4th season in the league.
And boy did he show out.
From Games 4-6 of this first-round series against Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz, he has put up 50 points, 42 points, and another 50 points. These are numbers that no ordinary player could put up. In that time, he has also averaged 7 assists and 8 rebounds.
Nikola Jokic is usually touted to be the best player on his team and topping arguably the best center in the league is no easy feat. That’s exactly what Jamal has done.
There hasn’t been any Canadian player, or ANY player for that matter, who has performed at Murray’s level in the pressure of the playoffs.
The numbers are unsustainable even for a player like Jordan but even if he continues to play at a somewhat similar level then he has a shot at becoming a perennial superstar in the league as well as the next Canadian icon.
During his interview after Game 6 of this first-round series, Murray got emotional and went silent for long moments to gather himself and talk about the pressing social justice issues surrounding the world today. He demonstrated the importance of these issues to not only those living in America but those living around the world, including Canada. He talks about how he has a personal connection with ongoing protests and how the motivation of bringing change pumps him to do better, play greater, and win the game for his team.
He is the right man to represent Canada on the world basketball stage. He is the man with the talent, the poise, the character, and the personality that embodies a true superstar, one who is worthy of representing an entire nation.
Game 7 awaits us in what should be an exciting duel between two of the great, young stars in the game.
Murray has shown he can be the man. He has shown he can be an icon.
Can he climb to even higher heights tonight?
Let’s wait and see.