Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has blossomed into a true star during this postseason run, thanks in large part to his incredible shotmaking, both inside and outside the arc. But on Thursday night, he took things to another level with an unbelievable layup that immediately entered the conversation as one of the most impressive plays in the bubble.
Late in the first half, Murray curled up to the top of the key and took a pass from Paul Millsap. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope trailing behind him, Murray decided to go to the basket instead of pulling up for a jumper. He did the first part perfectly, splitting between KCP and Anthony Davis to get into the lane and take off for the rim. The only problem was, LeBron James was right there waiting.
As Murray leaped, he cocked the ball back behind his head as if he was trying to dunk it on "The King," but it quickly became clear that wasn't happening. So the youngster improvised in mid-air, switching the ball over to his left hand to get it under LeBron's outstretched arm, before spinning it back up on the other side of the rim.
The obvious and immediate comparison is to Michael Jordan's iconic "switch hands" layup from the 1991 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Murray's effort is unlikely to be as memorable as Jordan's, which came during a huge moment in the Bulls' first Finals run, and was accompanied by an equally legendary call from Marv Albert: "Oh! A spec-TAC-ular move, by Michael Jordan." And, of course, Murray isn't MJ.
But Murray's effort does have Jordan beat in difficulty level. After all, Jordan didn't really need to switch hands. He did so because he thought a defender was going to arrive, but no one ever did. Murray's only option to finish that shot was to contort his body around one of the best players in the history of the league.
The fact that he even had the athleticism and coordination to move around like that in mid-air and get any sort of shot up on the rim was remarkable on its own. That he was able to somehow complete the play almost defies belief. This is a rare case where it's worth looking at the still image as well as the video because it really emphasizes how difficult the play was. Look at where Murray was in this moment, and then consider that he ended up making a reverse layup.
A show-stopping basket that gets comparisons to Jordan and high praise from Ginobili? It doesn't get better than that.