Spurs’ Dejounte Murray opens up about tough upbringing, being labeled a ‘gang member’ during NBA draft

SAN ANTONIO – Dejounte Murray recently opened up about his upbringing in Seattle, shared his thoughts on systemic racism and a variety of other topics in a Yahoo! Sports podcast with NBA insider Chris Haynes.

The 23-year-old Spurs point guard told Haynes he would have never imagined making it to the NBA due to his early exposure to crime and drugs.

“I got active in the streets at 11 years old,” said Murray. “When I mean active in the streets, not just on the corner. They knew my name when I got on the block.”

Murray said his mother was “in and out of the penitentiary” when he was a child. He said by the age of four or five he knew what every drug was.

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Murray revealed he spent time in juvenile detention, but his life changed during his sophomore year in high school when he started to build a relationship with NBA veteran Jamal Crawford.

Crawford, a fellow Seattle native and Ranier Beach High School alum, told Murray he had the ability to make it to the NBA and took Murray under his wing.

Murray said Crawford called and texted him often, encouraging the Spurs point guard to get off the streets, get into the gym and get his grades in order.

“I never looked back since I got out of juvenile my sophomore year,” said Murray.

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Murray became a highly rated recruit and entered the NBA Draft after a year at Washington.

But his past followed him into draft night. Murray said several teams promised him he would be selected in the lottery, but rumors started to surface about him being a “gang member.”

“I get promised by multiple teams that I’m going lottery and then the day comes, and I get judged for stuff I did when I was 13, 14, 15 and I felt some type of way,” said Murray. “But I was thankful to get picked. I was thankful that a team believed me and they didn’t judge me. The Spurs said all I see is a young kid who needs guidance, who needs help, needs a chance. So they gave me that chance.”

Murray said he has not taken that opportunity for granted especially in the current climate of the country.

“Where we come from, we all just need a chance. Just our color, we’re a target when we walk out the door. You see what’s going on. It’s been happening,” said Murray. “I’m already black so I know my chances are slim. I can’t mess up and expect the same chance again.”

Haynes asked Murray more about social injustices and systemic racism in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

Murray said he’s become more socially conscious after the deaths of Travon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery.

He also appreciated what former Spurs and NBA forward Stephen Jackson has done to push for social justice and police reform.

“I don’t understand how you can hate somebody with color. We bleed the same,” said Murray. “I hope it changes, not only for myself, my family but for the world. We deserve better whatever race you are. We all deserve to be treated the same.”

Murray is preparing to restart the NBA season in Orlando.

With LaMarcus Aldridge out for the remainder of the campaign, Murray said the rest of the team needs to be prepared and have a “next man up” mentality if San Antonio wants to extend its playoff streak.

Before league play was suspended, Murray was having the best season of his young career after returning from an ACL injury.

Murray was averaging 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game. The league is expected to resume play near the end of July.

You can watch Murray’s full interview with Chris Haynes below.

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