Since his arrival, Atlanta Hawks star Dejounte Murray has assumed a leadership role. But his impact is not limited to the court or Hawks’ locker room at State Farm Arean or the halls of the Emory Sports Medicine Complex where they practice.
“You motivate me big bro,” wrote Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Emoni Bates in an Instagram story on September 12.
The message got Murray’s attention and, in his response, he set a lofty bar for Bates.
“LOVE YO LIFE BOY!!!! FUTURE STAR,” Murray responded. “JUST KEEP THE MAIN GOAL THE MAIN GOAL!!!! WORKKKKKKKK.”
Like Murray, Bates has dealt with some off-the-court issues before hitting the NBA. His collegiate journey, which began at the University of Memphis under former NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway, ended with the 6-foot-9 forward at Eastern Michigan, closer to home after an injury removed him from the lineup with the Tigers who then took off.
But his career with the Eagles began with Bates pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge and being sentenced to 18 months probation.
Murray, a native of Seattle, Washington, was exposed to drugs and crime as a youth, spending time in juvenile detention centers intermittently as early as 11 years old up to his sophomore year in high school.
He has not shied away from his troubled past or how far he has come since.
“10 Years Ago I Was In Juvenile And That Whole Month In There I Told The Guards Ima Get Out And Change My Life And Never Come Back And They Told Me I Will Be Right Back,” Murray posted on May 20. “10 Years Later Them Same Guards Asking For Pictures And My Autograph!! Look At GOD!!!”
His fire is evident on the court. And, while some of his antics caught some by surprise – his pro-am beef with Orlando Magic big man Paolo Banchero for example – teammates honor him.
“Dejounte is a real good guy,” San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones said, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News on January 20. “I feel like a lot of the things that happened when he … got traded, a lot of things happened that made him out to be a bad guy a little bit.
“I don’t think it’s anything like that.”
Murray’s story is one of triumph and overcoming circumstances, and he makes sure to give back to the community because of what he went through as a kid.
Atlanta Hawks duo primed for big season
After a tumultuous but historic first year in Atlanta – one that saw him and Trae Young become the first set of teammates to both average at least 20.0 points and 6.0 assists since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the ’90s Chicago Bulls – Murray has been insistent that this coming season will be his best yet.
“You Don’t Want To Miss This Year!!!!! TRUST ME,” Murray said in an Instagram story promoting the Hawks’ season ticket plans.”
Young has also set a bar for himself and Murray for next season.
“I think we can be we can be special,” Young said on the “From The Point by Trae Young” podcast on August 4. “For me, I don’t like necessarily talking about it. I like going out and doing it. So like it’s different for me talking about it. But I know we can be special.”
The two have already been working together at the Hawks’ facilities this offseason, and both are staunch believers in head coach Quin Snyder. If that combination clicks as the Hawks hope, it could lead to something special – there are still five members of the team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021 on this roster.
That underscores both the amount of turnover they have experienced as well as the potential this group still has if they can put it all together.