Keeler: Say his name, Shaq. That’s Jamal M-U-R-R-A-Y. And he’s got the Nuggets on the verge of making history.

Say his name, Shaq.

Say it, dude.


First NBA player since Michael Jordan in 1993 to follow-up a 50-point game in the playoffs with a 40-point one.


First guy since MJ in the ’93 Finals to put up at least 40 points in three straight postseason games.


First player in NBA history with multiple playoff tilts with at least 50 points, five rebounds and five assists.


The fourth player in NBA history with multiple 50-point games in the same series.


Sixth player in NBA history to have scored 50 points or more in a playoff game more than once. The other five: Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson, Jerry West and Donovan Mitchell.

You know who’s not on that list?

Shaquille O’Neal.

Love the big dude. Love him to death. But it says something that, before the Nuggets’ 119-107 victory over Utah on Sunday, before Denver forced a Game 7, O’Neal went on national television and referred to the guy who’s put Denver — a team, a city, a fan base — on his back, as “Jamal Murphy.”


Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson, Shaq’s Turner studio pals, rightfully let him have it.

“Murphy, Murray,” O’Neal countered. “It’s still got an M-U-R in it. That’s all that matters.”

Say his name, Shaq.


“They trust me,” Murray said after dropping 50 points on just 24 shots vs. the Jazz late Sunday  “I try not to let them down. They believe in me. I believe in them.”

After Game 6, everybody else is believing, too.

“He’s playing amazing,” offered center Nikola Jokic, who chipped in 22 points and nine assists. “Not just scoring-wise, his energy, his leadership. He’s really playing at a high level, just a superstar level. We wish (that) the gods of basketball are going to give him a little bit more of that during our playoffs.”

Even more impressive? The context. Unlike the other legends, Murray is playing every game away from home. Unlike the other legends, Murray is shining on the big stage in 2020, in the age of COVID-19, with Blacks dying in the street and in their homes.

Murray’s got a picture of George Floyd on one shoe. And a picture of Breonna Taylor on the other. He broke down during his postgame interview on the court, then again in the tunnel leaving the arena.


Despite all that weight, all that emotion, somehow, we’re here. Winner on Tuesday gets Kawhi. Loser goes home.

And it’s been a while. The Nuggets found themselves facing a 3-1 series deficit in the postseason 13 times in franchise history. Only twice did Denver rally to force a Game 7: In the 1994 Western semis against Utah and in the 2012 opening round against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets wound up losing both series.

Those teams didn’t have Jordan. Those teams didn’t have Chamberlain. Or Iverson. Or West.

These Nuggets have Murray.


“Still not a household name,” Johnson quipped.

He is now.