Jamal Murray broke an unwritten rule by the NBA's weird measure of disrespect

Ben Rohrbach

Even Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray apologized for breaking an unwritten NBA rule by jacking an errant 3-pointer as time expired on his 48-point night and a 115-107 victory against the Boston Celtics.

“I shouldn’t have done it,” Murray said afterwards, according to the Denver Post.

“He’s got to learn not to take that last shot,” added Nuggets coach Mike Malone.

Celtics guard Kyrie Irving took it two steps further, refusing to shake Nuggets assistant coach Jordi Fernandez’s hand before gunning the game ball into the crowd. The 21-year-old Murray likely would have sought that ball as a memento of his single-game scoring record for Canadian-born players.

The NBA fined Irving $25,000 on Tuesday for throwing the ball into the Pepsi Center crowd.

Irving’s explanation on Monday, via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps:

“The ball deserves to go in the crowd after a bulls— move like that. So I threw it in the crowd.”

Fellow Celtics guard Marcus Smart concurred. He exchanged words with Murray on the court in front of his teammates after the final whistle. Here’s the warning he issued Murray, via The Athletic’s Jay King:

“If it was me on the court it would have been something, but I wasn’t — you know, I’m trying to save my money. So I told him, I said, ‘Listen, next time we’re not going to let that slide. So take this one. Otherwise your teammates right here (will need to step in). Don’t do that s— again.’ My exact words.”


“We obviously didn’t foul you for a reason. Let the game go. Your coach was even telling you, ‘Hold the ball.’ And he looked at him and shot it. So that tells us it’s disrespectful.”

NBA players measure disrespect in weird ways

It is strange that the Celtics were seeking some measure of respect after Murray made them look ridiculous all night. Twenty-eight of Murray’s 48 points came when a defender wasn’t within four feet of him, according to Second Spectrum. You would think the Celtics might be more upset about their own effort than Murray getting one more open look at the basket after they had conceded defeat.

And maybe they were. In his postgame press conference, Irving congratulated Murray on dropping 48 “in a great fashion” and criticized his team’s defense. (Irving was one of many Celtics who Murray torched — Al Horford chief among them in the pick and roll.) Smart said it better, via King again:

“If anybody on this team don’t feel ashamed, disrespected, embarrassed about it, then I don’t know what to tell you,” added Smart. “We’re going to keep getting our ass kicked if that’s the case. We didn’t do a good job as a team. And it showed.”

So, Murray’s attempt to eclipse 50 points was just the disrespect cherry on top of an embarrassment sundae? It seems like the Celtics should have just eaten their humble pie however Murray served it.

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray flexed on the Boston Celtics. (Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray flexed on the Boston Celtics. (Getty Images)

Jamal Murray unites the Celtics and Lakers through disrespect

This isn’t the first time Murray drew the ire of an opposing team for his late-game antics:

After Murray dribbled around Lakers guard Lonzo Ball with a game already decided last season, L.A. coach Luke Walton said he had a pattern of disrespectful behavior. “I felt like for the second time we played here, Murray was being a little disrespectful at the end of the game,” said Walton. “Just some trash-talking toward our guys.” Murray’s actions are a rare unifying force for the Lakers and Celtics.

Even Murray acknowledged this after Monday night’s game:

Having to apologize for trying to get 50 points against the league’s best defense kind of takes a little of the fun out of a career night, don’t you think? Like, hey, maybe let the guy enjoy it for a second.

What is the point of this unwritten NBA rule?

This won’t be the last we hear of this unwritten rule — perhaps the NBA’s only such statute.

When Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston attempted a wide-open jumper with the shot clock winding down and Game 1 of the NBA Finals well in hand this past June, Cleveland Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson took issue, delivering a hard foul and making his displeasure known.

But that was different, according to Warriors coach Steve Kerr:

“If there’s a shot-clock differential, you shoot the ball. The game is telling you you’re supposed to shoot the ball. And if anybody is offended because you’re playing the game the way the clock and the rules are telling you to play, then I think that’s silly.

“If the shot clock is off, then you run the clock out. If the shot clock is on, you take a shot. I don’t know why there’s any ritual that says you’re supposed to stop playing. We’re going to shoot. We’re not taking a turnover.

“I’ve told our guys that for four years. We don’t take turnovers at the end of the game. You shoot, the other team gets the ball and they can run it out or do whatever they want to do.”

The real problem occurs when players try to pad their stats when the game clock is running out, as Philadelphia 76ers forward Dario Saric did in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers late last season, dunking rather than running out the clock and drawing the ire of LeBron James and his teammates:

In an NBA where round numbers like triple-doubles are often treated more sacredly than efficiency in victory, where players’ individual brands are bolstered by those achievements and where contract bonuses are tied to individual accolades like All-NBA selections, it just seems like chasing 50 points is pretty low on the disrespect scale. Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker’s efforts to get 70 points against the Celtics was far more embarrassing, but that somehow stung less because Boston won the game.

What to do about this unwritten rule?

It’s hard to keep track of this unwritten rule. Celtics wing Jaylen Brown probably said it best:

Come to think of it, that should be the new unwritten rule.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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