Learn his name, Shaq.
Learn it, man.
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 consecutive 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 contest more than once. The other five: Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson, Jerry West and Donovan Mitchell.
You know who’s not on that list?
Love the big dude. Love him to death. But it says something that, before the Nuggets’ 119-107 victory over Utah on Sunday, before Murray 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 TNT 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.”
Learn his name, Shaq.
“They trust me,” Murray said after dropping 50 points on just 24 shots vs. the Jazz. “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.”
Superstars rise on the biggest stages. Superstars make the impossible look routine. Superstars know how to shake everything else off, even if the world seems to be on fire all around them.
Unlike the other scoring legends, Murray is playing every game away from home. Unlike the other scoring legends, Murray is stealing the spotlight 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, face racked with emotion, during his postgame interview on the court. Then again in the tunnel after leaving the arena.
“People want me to be consistent,” said the 23-year-old guard, who went into the weekend averaging 30.8 points in this series after scoring 21.3 per game during the 2019 postseason. “I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy.
“That’s why the greats are so good, because they don’t do it just one night. They do it every night. They play hard every night. They bring their will to win every single night. And they will their teams to play harder.”
Despite all that will, all that weight, all that emotion, all that Donovan Mitchell, somehow, there is a Game 7.
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.
Of course, 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 before Game 6.
He is now, EJ. He is now.