Denver Nuggets Guard Jamal Murray Talks All-Star Weekend, the NBA Season So Far & J. Cole Fandom

 Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images
Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets poses for a portrait during the NBAE Circuit as part of 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend on Feb. 16, 2018 at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles.

Jamal Murray hasn’t had a chance to keep up with arts and culture-related news like Bruno Mars sweeping the Grammys. The Denver Nuggets guard has been too busy keeping his team in line for a spot in the upcoming 2018 NBA playoffs.

After a brief phone conversation with him over the 2018 All-Star Weekend, it’s pretty clear that he is deeply focused on one thing: improving his game. Murray’s dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed. After averaging 9.9 points per game off the bench last season, the Ketchner, Ontario, native has bagged himself a starting role this year and upped his productivity to 16.5 points, almost 3 assists and 3.5 rebounds.

Murray, also known as “Glitch” -- a name he earned after playing a game of 21 where he won hitting nothing but 3-pointers -- has carried his nickname over onto the NBA hardwood. The 6-foot-4 guard can get hot really quickly, releasing 3 after 3 with his blistering form. He showed it at last year's Rising Stars Challenge, where he won MVP for the world team by putting up 36 points and 11 assists, and gave fans a taste at this year's challenge as well with a calm 21 points on 50 percent shooting from deep.

At the time of our interview, the Nuggets boasted a 32-26 record and sat at No. 6 in the Western Conference standings, with a solid three-game win streak into the All-Star break. While the Nuggets are currently on track in their pursuits of a playoff berth, anything can happen in the wild Western Conference, as the Portland Trailblazers sit directly behind them in seventh place with an identical record and the New Orleans Pelicans are just a half game back in eighth.

After a rampant December, the 20-year-old guard has been keeping his foot firmly on the gas in 2018 as well. In his last 14 contests, Murray put up three 30-point games, including a career-high 38 against the Blazers in January and 33 points in a last gasp win over Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder -- where we saw him put OKC big man Steven Adams on skates -- as fellow up-and-comer Gary Harris nailed the game winner.  

The blazing combo guard also bagged himself a style gig off the court with Express’ NBA Game Changers campaign, including fellow young athletes Brandon Ingram, John Collins and Denzel Valentine.

With 24 games remaining till the playoffs, Murray is certainly growing to become one of the more formidable young presences in the league, and the young and energetic Denver Nuggets are fortifying themselves as a Western Conference force.

Billboard caught up with Murray about the season to date, the All-Star Weekend festivities, and his favorite music.

How's the season been going for you?

It's been good. We're in the playoffs right now and have a good seed. After these next 24 games, hopefully we can make the playoffs still. That's our only goal.

How does it feel coming into more of the starting role this season?

I feel good. I'm playing with a lot of confidence, the team's playing well. We're playing exceptional on offense, but we need to get our defense together. As a point guard and leader, I gotta make sure we get on that.

What was your reaction to seeing Emmanuel Mudiay get traded to the Knicks?

It's a business, it happens. He had a great run in Denver, and hopefully he gets a new chance to start it up with the Knicks. It's a new place where he can develop his game.

Congrats on winning the Rising Stars Challenge again this year. Who were you most excited about playing with on the World Team?

Dillon Brooks. My Canadian fellow, I haven't played with him in a while, so it felt good to be back on the court with him.

Not sure if you've seen, but social media has been going crazy over Quavo nabbing MVP in the Celebrity All-Star game, and now people are saying he should join the league. Do you think he could make it?

[Laughs] I'm not sure, that's a difficult one. He's good for the celebrity game, but I'm not sure how he'd match up against a Westbrook.

Who were you rooting for in the Dunk Contest?

I was just looking for a good show. I wasn't really rooting for anybody.

Did you have a favorite dunk that anybody did?

I liked Dennis Smith [Jr.]'s between the legs 360, that was nice.

How about the 3-point contest?

I called Devin Booker winning it, and he did, so... [Laughs]

What made you get into basketball and how did you know it would be your focus and passion in life?

I always knew. I always had a love for it and continue to grow and learn every day. I always wanted to get better, I always wanted to be the best, and I knew from a young age, so I kept putting in the hard work and kept training around the outside courts outside my house and it paid off.

I read that you grew up on hip-hop and would listen to the stuff your pops would play. What decade of music is your favorite, if you had to pick?

I would say '80s, and '90s; I think that was the best time for music. I like a lot of Wu-Tang [Clan] and Busta Rhymes and MJ [Michael Jackson]. There was a variety of music, and people put a lot of work into their craft.

Do you remember the first album you ever purchased?

No. [Laughs] I had so many CDs and albums, I didn't really have to buy any. My dad had them all stacked up in the basement.

Who are you listening to right now?

A lot of J. Cole, a lot of Lil Wayne. Those are my two favorites right now. I think old Lil Wayne was crazy, and he's getting back to his ways, I think. But J. Cole is my favorite artist though.

Do you have a favorite project from Cole?

Man, I like all of them, there is no particular one.

What did you think of 4 Your Eyez Only?

I loved it; he was being himself. I saw him perform it twice -- once in Toronto, once in Vegas -- so I got the full experience.

Did you ever get a chance to meet him?

No, I wish. [Laughs]

I read about the Express NBA Game Changers campaign you've got going on with Brandon Ingram, Denzel Valentine and John Collins, How's it been going for you?

They're excited to work with me and it's been a great partnership. I have a lot of fun with them. It's a lot of different styles and hopefully we can continue it.

Have you gotten a chance to see Black Panther?

No, I've been busy. I'm going to see it when I get back to Denver though. I’m really excited about it.

You're from around the Toronto area -- are you into the music scene out there at all?

Yeah, I just haven't been around there in a while. Definitely know Drake is up there and doing his thing. Toronto is one of the biggest spots for music; Caribana and OVO Fest and all that stuff, it's a lot of fun.

Have you ever thought about making music?

Nah, I can't freestyle, man. [Laughs] I play instruments and stuff, but I can't rap or anything like that.

What instruments do you play?

Alto sax.

When did you start playing?

Seventh grade.

Nice. Do you still keep up with it?

Nah, I ain't got time now. I wanna learn piano and violin though.

If you were a musician, what would your stage name be?

Probably "Glitch." That's my other nickname. It's more of a basketball thing, but yeah.

How'd you get it?

I got that from basketball, when I was playing 21 with a bunch of guys. I was hitting a bunch of 3's and one guy said that I was a glitch.

Your 2K sliders were all the way up.

Yeah, they need to take out the disc and wipe it off and put it back in. [Laughs] But that name just stuck with me ever since.

Who are three artists you'd like to jump on your track if you ever made one?

J. Cole for sure. Kanye [West] and somebody who could lighten the tone, like a Migos.

Did you catch the 2018 Grammys?

Nah, I didn't watch the Grammys. I don't really keep up with that stuff. to be honest.

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