SAN ANTONIO — A day after being named to the NBA All-Star Game for the first time in his career, Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray spoke at length about his journey to this point and sharing the moment with those he cares about.
He answered 20 questions, spoke for nearly a half hour, and opened a window into his mind as he reflects on what the accomplishment means, and what comes next.
The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Q: What was your day like yesterday?
We had a good practice. First of all, we were able to practice for the first time in a long time and obviously having Zach join the squad, it was also good for us to get up and down and script and go to plays and just in general, adding him to the squad and having everybody available to practice. We had a great practice, and after that, I showered and did everything I was supposed to do and I went home and just enjoyed time with my family because they were leaving when I was leaving to hit the road, which was today. We all were home and Pop called me and he just was joking around for a minute about other stuff. And then he told me that, I'm going to Cleveland, I'm an All-Star and I just broke down with my family, broke down crying with my family, and it just was a real moment. For them to see and hear that and everything I've been through, not even just me. It's my family. We've dealt with a lot, since I was really young all the way to now, I still deal with a lot, so it's good to see some blessings is coming through to good people.
Q: What hit you about sharing this moment with your family?
I think what hit me about the moment was first my daughter was like, 'Why are you guys crying, what's going on?' And she's like, 'You guys are weird.' So that was funny.
But I think what really hit me is my nephew, which is my sister who passed this past summer. He's been at my house a lot, and I have a hoop inside my house that I put up for him. And I just watched him look at us, as adults crying and hugging each other and he just looking and I seen him in me. He was just shooting hoops and he's just looking at us like, 'What's going on, what's wrong?' And he just reached out to me. I hugged him and I just told him that you're next, because he loves basketball already, three years old and he can really dribble the ball and shoot it already. So that was the biggest moment for me because it just looked like Dejounte all over again. Just a young kid, wanting to be loved and you know, having a love for basketball and just wanting to have fun.
The little kids, like my daughter, nieces and nephews and little cousins in general, they are really a young age, about five and under all of them. That's the good part, they all get to be connected like my generation was connected in our family. We're all close around the same age. They really don't understand, that's why my daughter was like, 'You guys are acting weird' and my nephew is just like, 'what's going on?' Because they don't understand yet which they will one day.
The important thing is I felt the love and they felt the love and it was tears of joy. Because my family knows how hard I work. They know that it's no smoking, no drinking no partying and for Dejounte, it's strictly basketball and doing what I do outside of basketball. I know basketball ain't forever, so I'm committed to it 110%.
Q: What are your All-Star Game memories from growing up?
I always watched them. I'm a fan of basketball so, that's really around that time that's the only thing on so you kind of forced to watch especially if you love sports. The memories of just me watching the practices. I watch all that stuff. I watched guy in practice and just joking around all the way to looking at the pictures they post and obviously the game. The game is exciting, and they compete and have fun. This is unbelievable that I'll be right there.
Q: Has it hit you yet?
It's crazy. So crazy. It's so crazy. I swear it's crazy. Yes, definitely hit me but not as much as I say that it should. I'm still like, halfway like, 'Nah this is dream' and the other half like, 'Nah it's real.'
Q: What other All-Stars are you looking forward to spending time with?
"I pretty much know a lot of them and we all got that respect for one another, but I'm not just singly wanting to meet this guy or that guy, I want to meet and just be around everybody. I want to be able to enjoy the whole process the whole weekend, just taking it all in because this is huge for me, San Antonio, my family, just everything. I get to go represent, my family, my organization and and that's just big for me just to be around the best players in the world and obviously have fun and try to talk more life and how dudes feel to be here, and what it takes to get here again, just all that stuff. And then obviously on the basketball end, everybody's here for a reason. So, you know how to have fun and compete and go out and just have fun in general.
Q: When you slipped on draft night, were you angry? Were you disappointed?
I wouldn't say angry, I wouldn't say disappointed, and the reason why I say those two things - and I'd never really spoke upon that situation - the reason why I say I wasn't angry or disappointed was because as you get to know me, and if you do know me, you know where I come from and you know what I overcame to get to where I'm at, so I was thankful and grateful to be in that situation. It was all new to me, 19 years old, never seen anything like it. So I was just enjoying the moment with my family and just everything and just sitting there obviously, you know, I didn't go to the combine for other reasons, talking to other teams and stuff. I didn't expect to land at 29, but at the end of the day, that's what God had written for me and I wouldn't change it for nothing. And I'm not saying this because of the success that I've had in my career, through the good and bad, but the Spurs organization was just perfect for me. Dudes like LeBron, John Wall, family and friends that are aware of basketball and watch basketball and knows you know about basketball, all told me the same thing. You're going to a class organization, drama free, they everyday, professional, from on the court to off the court and all you've got to do is go learn and work on your game each and every day.
Q: What has been the key to your continued development?
You know one thing about me, I take pride in getting better each and every year. I feel like every player should try to add as much as they can. Watch film after the season, get with your coaches, see what you did or what you could do better and add stuff to your game and come back. They could say this or that about you, but always know that one thing they could say is he did get better, and that's just something that I take pride in, something that I want to do each and every year. Just crediting everybody, we had guys that were here when I first got here it have gone from on the training staff to the weight room to development coaches that I was playing against on off days. All the way to coaches that are still here like Chip Engelland and obviously Coach Pop. I just credit everybody, it's not just one two or three guys, it's everybody who's been here the whole six years.
Q: How much has Gregg Popovich meant to you on and off the court?
He's a great man. Obviously he's a great coach and it speaks for itself what he was able to do for this game on and off the floor and win at the highest level. The main thing for me was off the floor though, just having that guidance and somebody I can go talk to or call whenever I want or whenever I have any questions. He's definitely been that father type for me and, he's been a great coach, he pushes me to be the best I can be, and he knows I can take criticism, he knows that I don't like for anybody to toot my horn or tell me the good thing. I always want to work on anything that's a weakness or something I could just get better, and in general, so I'm thankful for him. Like I said, it was written by God and God put us in each other's life for a reason.
Q: What was it like feeling the love after the announcement?
A bunch of people showed me a lot of love and know I'm thankful for, you know, stuff that you don't have to do. Us as humans, we got a choice in life: we can do it or we don't have to do it. A bunch of people showed love and I think that's what it's all about, even with me, I love to show love and, it's for free. It doesn't cost a dollar to show love and root for the next person, especially if they're a great person and they're just willing to work for anything you know, whether they're athlete or working a normal nine to five job. I received a lot of calls, a lot of text messages and I'm thankful, and it's just the beginning though. Put another chip on my shoulder, it motivated me even more because I'm seeing what hard work is getting me from coming out of high school to college to turning my dreams into a reality, getting hurt, I've seen it from all types of angles. I'm excited for obviously now, but more the future because I know how hard I'll continue to work.
Q: What does it mean to share this with the Spurs Family?
The whole organization, it's not just about the teammates, the coaches, it's everybody, all in one, this is a family. This whole organization is one, and you root for one another and you want the best for one another, whether it's off the floor or it's on the floor. Specifically for my teammates, they've been supportive of me the whole way, and they put me in a situation to be successful, whether it's they're making a shot or give me the ball to score, them just believing in me to do whatever it takes to help win the basketball game, and it's the same for me. I believe in all of them and you know, it could be just a little thing Derrick White taken a charge or Keldon or Jak scoring, Doug making a shot, I can go on and on just about all the guys. It means a lot when we can support one another and want the best for one another. I'm just thankful to be around a bunch of great men and women, and just want to keep going.
Q: How were you molded by playing basketball in Seattle growing up?
I went to a lot, it's not even just about South Shore. I played everywhere, I've played at all the community centers, I played at the parks, and obviously, coming from the south of Seattle, it's a competitive place. You've gotta have tough skin, you can't show no weakness in whatever you do, and that's really what it's about. We're one big community and we want to just, see the best for each other. I really don't have just one moment because those moments are regular to us, and they're just normal, and you know what to expect if you're from there.
Q: What calls did you get from people in Seattle that stuck out?
Obviously the Jamal Crawford one, that was big because the whole relationship, the whole story behind me and him, and obviously him being a great and everybody looking up to him in the basketball world and. I think it's big because he's Rainier Beach alum and he's a legend, his name speaks for itself, you know what he's done on and off the floor, and obviously the whole world feels like he should have been an All-Star before for the great career he had. So this is for my community, this is for him. I told him, 'This is for us, you helped mold me into the person I am and on the basketball side,' so, that was a big one, but I think another big one was Zach LaVine. I could just, I could hear how happy he was and he was just like, 'Bro we there. I can't wait to take our picture,' like, just stuff like that. Because me and him are really close, we work out, we talk all the time, so this is huge for the city of Seattle. We've got a lot of up and coming, not just athletes, but everything in general, and this is big for the city.
Q: Do you happen to know how many members of the 2016 draft class are going to be in this All-Star Game?
Q: You do you did notice that. You get any satisfaction out of that?
I was told. It's a great draft class and I'm not competing with nobody. I look in the mirror each and every day and I'm competing with Dejounte Murray. That's really what it's about, and I'm rooting for every single one of them guys, it's not even just about my draft class. I know how hard it is to come to this league and last in this league, and let alone be an All-Star. It's nice to know that I get to represent the class. We have guys in the past and such as Ben (Simmons) and Brandon (Ingram) and Jaylen (Brown), and (Domantas) Sabonis represent the draft class. I'm just thankful to keep our draft class alive for this season I should say, and be able to represent.
Q: What's it like to join the list of Spurs All-Stars, and how do you feel San Antonio is respected around the league?
It's a great, great moment, great feeling just to be mentioned with those guys, you know, I haven't done nothing. I've still got a long way to go, and that's what keeps me thriving each and every day. I just wake up knowing how much better I can get, so that's number one. Them guys are established Hall of Famers and won championships and left their mark on is league, Dejounte's just getting started. I'm young, there's always room to improve. That's just the best for me is knowing that I can improve, so that's what I got to say on that. The love for the Spurs around the league, I really don't fall in love with people caring as long as coaches and my peers respect us, and respect the development and respect the players. That's all that really matters. We are all human and we got our own opinions. We can like something we don't have to like something, and some people might like the Spurs or some might not. That's up to you as a person. My job is to continue just to grow and represent, you know, my family in the Spurs organization.
Q: Where would you say you are in your journey?
Outside of basketball, I feel like I came a long way, just how I think as a person, move as a person. I've always treated others like I would want to be treated, always was a respectful guy. That was number one. So mainly that's really what it is for me is just growing, growing. Obviously I'm a father now to a four-year-old little girl, so I've gotta continue to put that in my days each and every day, first, before basketball or anything else. Finding ways where I can become a better father and just help her and connect to my daughter, because she's getting older and not younger. So, that's number one. Mainly just as a person, I'm gonna continue to grow because I'm always interested to meet good people. I can see through people, I can read people so, you know, it's rare that you see me around somebody who's not a good person. So that's a gift from God I feel like I have.
On the basketball side, I got a long way to go. Just everything in one. That's my favorite thing. I'm gonna continue to preach it, the room to improve no matter who you are, or how old you are, you can always improve. You can look at guys like LeBron, I know he's one of one, but at the same time, you just look at the age and what he's accomplished off the floor and on the floor, and doing what he's doing, not just on the floor, but off the floor as well at his age so that type of stuff motivates me as well. Knowing that I live by 'There's always room to improve.'
Q: What specific areas of your game do you want to improve?
That's a question that I'm gonna always say the same thing to, that's 'everything' because the difference between me I feel like and a lot of others, I didn't have trainers or I didn't have my mom or my dad taking me to the gyms or parks teaching me basketball or this or that. Everything was learned on the fly from just watching it or just out there playing it, and I didn't really connect with nobody until I got older which was almost 16, 17 years old when I start going to camps and stuff. I'm going to be able to improve on everything because I was never taught nothing, and it's just like me playing catch up now. Guys who were taught things at an early age, they just knew how to do this and knew how to do that and they just got better at it. I'm at the stage where I'm still learning everything, and everything's new to me. That's the most interesting thing for me that I get to continue to improve on everything.
Q: Was it hard waiting to see if you'd be selected?
It was tough for me because I'm big on rewarding winners, earning everything, and obviously with my team to the rocky season we've had with guys in, guys out, guys hurt, guys COVID, I feel like if we didn't have that and we had our team the whole year, us just being able to learn with each other, we'd have a way better record than what we have. It wasn't too much on my mind. People got to understand where I come from, this is all this unbelievable to me, my family of people that really know me. Just being in the conversation is huge, because not everyone can say that people were talking about them being an All-Star.
It really wasn't on my mind, and I was more focused on the Spurs. What can I do to continue to grow and be a better leader and help my team win? So that really wasn't on my mind. I just knew with my hard work that one day it would be possible.
That's out of my control. I don't know what other people were thinking or what they're thinking. I'm just thankful that my peers, the coaches and even the media, you guys realize it, see my growth each and every year. That's huge to me, more than being an All-Star, obviously I know this is a huge thing, but ain't nothing like being respected working hard and being willing to learn, so that's really that.
Q: Have you thought about what you want to do in the All-Star Game?
"I'm from Seattle. I'm from Seattle, so we built for this, this is all we do, trust me. I'm from Seattle, so if you know about Seattle and the New York players, these are the games we built for. We're built for All-Star games.