By Mark Haynes | OBSERVER Correspondent
The Sacramento Kings were one pick away from having the opportunity to draft Keegan Murray’s identical twin brother Kris Murray in the 2023 NBA Draft June 22. If it wasn’t for fate and the Portland Trail Blazers selecting Kris with the 23rd pick, the Murray twins could’ve been teammates again, just like they’ve been their entire life. A partnership neither Keegan nor Kris had a say in.
In 1998, the #1 song on the R&B chart was Too Close by the group Next. It’s also the year former Iowa Hawkeye star Kenyon Murray met the love of his life Michelle Murray in a nightclub called Shag Nasty. The two started dating in June of that year and were engaged by August, and married in September of 1999. Then on August 19, 2000, the newlyweds welcomed two new additions to their family: identical twin boys Keegan and Kris Murray.
When the twins were born, Kenyon was the Associate Head Coach at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. Since they were exposed to basketball early while attending their father’s games, Kris and Keegan naturally gravitated to the game of basketball, but they didn’t love everything about the sport.
“It’s funny because, as babies, they hated whenever the buzzer would go off,” Kenyon told The OBSERVER. “They would cry, so whoever would babysit them would cover their ears whenever they knew the buzzer was going off. But when they started walking at 12 months, we had a Little Tykes hoop, and Keegan started launching shots from six to eight feet, and Kris was dunking. They were born into basketball.”
Basketball has brought joy, opportunity, and love to the Murray family. Not just on the court either. About a decade ago, Kenyon and Michelle agreed to take guardianship over their third son Demetrius Harper who Kenyon coached as a freshman in high school. Neither parent knew how things would work financially, but the Murray family knew if they stuck together, things would be OK.
“His mom had him when she was 16, and he came into our home going into his senior year,” Kenyon explained. “He is our son, and we’re so proud of him. He just got his master’s degree. He was a pain in the ass to his teachers and coaches, and now he’s a teacher and a coach himself.”
Last but not least, there’s McKenna Murray, the baby of the family. She’s going into her senior year of high school, and although two of her brothers are in the NBA, she might be the most naturally gifted athlete in the Murray family. McKenna has a 4.2 GPA, plays multiple sports, and enjoys crocheting outfits for herself. The 17-year-old is leaning toward going to college in California.
“She’s got her sights set on looking into dentistry or sports medicine,” Kenyon shared. “But being around the sports world and our agency, Priority Sports has been phenomenal for our family, and she’s interested in sports marketing.”
Raising four successful children is difficult, but the Murray family has done it with flying colors. There’s a less than one percent chance of the overall population to play professional sports, and this family now has two NBA players out of their household. Making it this far was never the plan for the twins. Kenyon also thought they might have chosen the wrong sport to focus on, adding that they were exceptional baseball players and golfers.
Growing up, Kris and Keegan were relatively small. They entered high school at 5 feet 11 inches, but by junior year had reached about 6 feet 5 inches. “Between their junior year in high school and freshman year in college was when I saw a switch flip, and I thought, OK, you guys got a chance to be college players,” Kenyon told The OBSERVER. “But the NBA stuff wasn’t even a conversation in our house.”
The NBA wasn’t something Kenyon and Michelle forced on their children. They were teaching them to be happy, work together, and love each other. In a house with four children, that could be complicated. Multiple personalities to manage, disagreements took place, and a one-time fight between the twins when they were 12 were a few challenges they faced.
Kenyon said the basement didn’t have much furniture, and there were two small hoops so the boys could play a mini-game of full-court basketball.
“McKenna came running upstairs like, ‘Mom, Dad, they’re fighting.’ I don’t remember what triggered the fight,” Kenyon said. “But when I went downstairs, I had to separate them physically, and then I think we made Keegan sleep upstairs in the extra bedroom for like a week. That was the only time they fought.”
Working together and pushing each other is what the twins usually do. If they played baseball, one would pitch while the other would catch, then they would switch so the other could practice.
Although Keegan and Kris weren’t heavily recruited during most of their high school career, things changed after going to prep school DME Academy in Daytona Beach, Florida. They went from only having one Division-1 offer to schools nationwide seeking their help — but Keegan and Kris had their minds set on the University of Iowa. Kenyon was shocked that they wanted to attend his former college.
“There’s North Carolina, and all these ACC schools calling, and y’all don’t even want to visit some of them,” Kenyon asked his sons. “They said no. Iowa was always the dream. They never told us that. Of course, part of me wanted them to go there, but you know, there was that legacy part. I was a good player. I mean, obviously, not as good as they are, but going to your father’s alma mater can be a lot of pressure. They never looked at it like that. They just said, ‘That’s where we want to go.’”
Once the boys got to Iowa, Keegan’s tremendous sophomore season put the brothers in a situation they had never encountered. Keegan declared for the NBA and left his twin brother’s side for the first time. The 2022-23 season was the first time they played on different teams. It was the first time they wouldn’t see each other every day.
“I think the hardest part was when Keegan had to go to Sacramento three days before their birthday,” Kenyon recalled. “He left here on the 16th of August. They saw each other, but they didn’t even say goodbye to each other. I think that moment was really tough for them.”
They didn’t see each other in person until All-Star weekend. After participating in The Rising Stars Challenge, Keegan flew to see his brother play against Northwestern. In the end, the separation worked out perfectly. Keegan set an NBA record for most three-pointers made by a rookie while starting most of the season for the Kings, and Kris averaged just over 20 points and nearly 9 rebounds per game for the Hawkeyes. He’s now the second member of the Murray family to play in the NBA.
The Sacramento Kings had the 24th pick in the 2023 draft, which made it possible for Kris to be drafted by the Kings and reunite with his twin brother. Their mother would’ve loved for that to happen, but the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the 23rd pick. Kenyon didn’t care which team drafted Kris, but in the end, he got exactly what he hoped for.
“It would be pretty crazy if they both were in Sacramento,” Kenyon conveyed. “But I think it’ll be even crazier seeing them play against each other.”
Regardless of the team his sons play for, which school his daughter attends for college, or where Harper coaches and teaches, Kenyon and Michelle are incredibly proud of all their children.
“I can’t even say how proud I am,” Kenyon responded. “We’re so happy for Demetrius and his fiancee. They have a five-month-old boy who I get to babysit. Then McKenna is so amazing, a 4.2 student. She’ll be successful in whatever she decides to do in life. Me and Michelle joke about having another kid in the NBA. We pinch ourselves. It’s like the coolest thing because they are living their dream, and we’re just along for the ride.”