Jusuf Nurkic announced on Saturday that his grandmother died.
Less than two hours later, he played one of the best games of his career to help the Portland Trail Blazers secure a playoff spot.
Nurkic’s grandmother died of COVID-19
Nurkic told reporters on July 31 that his grandmother was in a coma with COVID-19. He announced her death on Instagram early Saturday.
Per Google translate, Nurkic’s Croatian message reads: “We are all Allah’s and to Him we return.”
Nurkic plays big with heavy heart
Nurkic announced the news just hours before Portland’s play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Portland won, 126-122 to secure a berth in the NBA playoffs.
Nurkic tallied a massive line in the high-stakes victory, posting 22 points, 21 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. The Trail Blazers held a moment of silence for Nurkic’s grandmother prior to tip. Head coach Terry Stotts called the news of her death “devastating.”
Nurkic addressed his grandmother’s death with reporters after the game.
A grieving Jusuf Nurkic on 22 points & 21 rebounds in Blazers win over Grizzlies after learning of grandmother’s death following covid-19 battle: “I didn’t want to play. She made me play… I’m glad we won and are in the playoffs. That’s what we came for.” pic.twitter.com/6HwYwe9XDq
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 15, 2020
“I didn’t want to play,” Nurkic said. “She made me play, I guess. … I already came — all those decisions to stay here, be with the team, so I think she wanted me to play. I’m glad we win and we’re in the playoffs, what we came for.”
His teammate CJ McCollum showed him support on the court and on social media.
Nurkic almost left bubble to be with grandmother
When Nurkic initially announced his grandmother’s COVID-19 diagnosis, he said that he had considered leaving the NBA bubble to be with her.
Nurkic, who had just returned to the Portland lineup after a long layoff with a leg injury, urged people to be smart about COVID-19 when he announced her illness.
“My grandma got COVID. She’s in a hospital … in a coma. I think people don’t realize that s— is real out there. … Please take care of yourself. Wear a damn mask if you need to wear it.”
—Jusuf Nurkic on COVID-19 pic.twitter.com/W7XpUaI9qJ
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 1, 2020
“I want to say something for the record,” Nurkic said. “The reason we’re here is the pandemic. I think people take for granted what’s going on out there in the world. Last couple days were the hardest days of my life.
“My grandma got COVID. She’s in the hospital. She’s in a coma. I think people don’t realize this s— is real out there. … Please take care of yourself. Wear a damn mask if you need to wear it.”
Nurkic has been key for the Trail Blazers as they’ve put themselves in playoff position in the NBA bubble. In his first eight games back before Saturday, Nurkic averaged 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Prior to the bubble, Nurkic hadn’t played since last March, when he suffered a gruesome compound fracture in his left leg during a game against the Brooklyn Nets. The Trail Blazers will take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday in Game 1 of their playoff series.