With the Denver Nuggets facing elimination and thus being de-platformed, Jamal Murray laced up sneakers embossed with lives state actors fatally deemed not to matter and dropped 50 points yet again. After outdueling Donovan Mitchell and setting up a winner-take-all Game 7 against the Utah Jazz, Murray stood for an interview with Turner Sports' Jared Greenberg. An interview in which he had trouble finding the right words but spoke as loudly and clearly about the current dichotomy as any.
Murray continued to deal with heavy emotions after the conversation.
For better or worse, society has adopted a coping mechanism that involves putting superhuman athletes in an artificial environment to compete for our entertainment. Setting aside the business ramifications and the players' handsome compensation, it's plainly an inhumane situation. And that's before you factor in the pressing weight of being at the forefront of the fight for racial justice.
Yes, the NBA has proven time and time again that it can walk and chew gum. Murray has proven he can be a stone-cold killer on the court then tap into the country's collective heart and better angels in the next breath. Multitasking both important and relatively trivial is taxing and confusing.
The Bubble is heavy. Its weight is noticeable on players who have been pushed to the brink and will be pushed there again. The toll is obvious and it has brought most to their knees — both symbolically and out of pure exhaustion.
This season stopped being about basketball a long time ago. The game is simply a means to an end. The vessel that allows the message to reach the masses. Make no mistake, though: they are playing their hearts out before pouring them out.
Anyone paying attention understands that The Bubble Experiment will not result in some resounding victory. Change comes incrementally and always long after it was necessary. Look no further than the swath of people who have the audacity to pretend that fighting for equality and basic human dignity is controversial. They aren't hard to find and though their motives may differ — from grift to pure ignorance — the end point is sadly the same.
On the topic of humanity, one wonders how a reasonable person processes what Murray went through last night, the overwhelming emotions and heavy shoulders, and walks away with anything less than respect. Even if a person has disagreements on policy or the supporting facts, how does a person with a beating heart see and hear Murray and throw out the "what about black-on-black crime" or any other distracting deflect?
And look, I suppose I should know the answer to that question in the latter stages of 2020. It'd be foolish and naive to expect anything different.
But dammit are we ever seeing the human beings behind these jerseys. It's a constant reminder that their superhuman feats belie their mortality, which is not equally valued.
This is powerful, authentic stuff. It should challenge and unsettle you. You're supposed to feel the highs and lows and be jarred by the shifts between essential and frivolity. Hell, you're just supposed to feel the requisite empathy, if not rage or despair or inspiration.