On Monday night, the Denver Nuggets put an end to over 50 years of frustration—and to the Miami Heat's hopes—by winning the NBA Championship.
This is the first time that the team has ever won a title. It also come one year after the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, making it a great time to be a sports fan in Colorado! The citizens in Denver will get to celebrate that fact tomorrow with a huge parade through downtown with hundreds of thousands of fans. (Kind of like the one that followed this victory!)
Though Denver plays as a team, the title was mostly won on the back of the Nuggets' two superstars: two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic and Canadian standout Jamal Murray. Whether against the Timberwolves, the Suns, the Lakers, or the Heat, no opponents had an answer for this dynamic duo.
Big bounce back
For Murray, who is from Kitchener, Ontario, the win was extra sweet. Since entering the league in 2016, the point guard has long been a future All-Star-in-waiting.
Then, on April 12, 2021, he suffered a brutal left knee injury. It not only ended that season, it stopped him from playing the entire following season, too. The opening of the 2022-23 season—an October 19, 2022 game versus the Utah Jazz—was the first game Murray had played in eighteen months. What a difficult comeback!
Murray slowly built his game back up over this season, returning to the top notch form. He and the Nuggets finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference and never looked back. In playoffs, Denver won 16 games and lost only 4. Talk about dominant!
The greatest Canadian NBA champion ever?
Over the last few years, Canada has really started to make a mark in the basketball world. Of course, there was the Raptors championship in 2019. But where they were once rare, Canadian-born players are starting to become a more regular sight in the NBA.
From Andrew Wiggins to R.J. Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to Dillon Brooks, Canadians are all over the league, and are much more than bench players. And more and more of them are becoming NBA champs, too.
Jamal Murray is the ninth Canadian to win an NBA title, and sixth in the last ten years. The others are: Mike Smrek (Los Angeles Lakers, 1987-88), Bill Wennington (Chicago, 1996-98), Rick Fox (Lakers, 2000-02), Joel Anthony (Miami, 2012-13), Cory Joseph (San Antonio, 2014), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland, 2016), Chris Boucher (Golden State 2018, Toronto 2019), and Wiggins (Golden State 2022).
He is also probably the best Canadian player to ever win an NBA title. And while he's got a ways to go before he can claim a career as great as Steve Nash (who was a two-time NBA MVP), he is only getting started! Certainly, many Canadians were excited for him, especially in his hometown of Kitchener where there were huge watch parties all playoffs long to cheer him on.
Whether you missed watching them yourself, or you just want to relive his moments, this pack of his highlights from the NBA Finals are awesome. From smooth lay-ups to thunderous dunks, quick steals and needle-threading passes, it's all here.
Congrats to Jamal and the Nuggets!