Little Big Man
Rockets' legend and Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy reflects upon his unforgettable career
HOUSTON - Perhaps it should not be terribly surprising that Calvin Murphy was a national champion baton twirler.
To be sure, that’s certainly not the typical route to NBA stardom. Then again, nothing about Murphy has ever been typical.
For starters, he’s one of the best sub-6-foot players the game has ever seen. In fact, with a listed height of 5-9, Murphy owns the distinction of being the shortest player ever to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
But to focus on the Norwalk, Connecticut native’s height is to miss the point entirely. Nothing about Murphy’s game was small.
Drafted by the San Diego Rockets with the first pick in the second round of the 1970 NBA Draft, Murphy came into the league with a chip on his shoulder, incredulous at the fact that a 3-time All-American who averaged more than 33 points per game during his college career at Niagara University would be allowed to slip so far. He then proceeded to prove his point by putting his considerable skills on display for the entire basketball world to see.
From the beginning, he had no problem putting the ball in the basket, scoring 15.8 points per game as a rookie while on his way to averaging 17.9 points per game over the course of his 13-year NBA career. He still holds the Rockets’ all-time record for points in a game thanks to his 57-point outburst against New Jersey in 1978. And he demonstrated an innate ability to deliver at the most opportune of times as well, pouring in 42 points to help Houston prevail over San Antonio in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals in 1981, as part of the Rockets’ memorable playoff run that year.
Murphy didn’t just want the ball come crunch time – he craved it. Saying he never worried about “being the hero or the zero,” Murphy never was one to shrink from the spotlight or pressure-packed situations. The man is, quite simply, a natural born performer; one with a proclivity for putting on a show whether there was a basketball or a baton in his hands.
It is, then, with great pleasure that Rockets.com introduces this exclusive sit-down interview with the little big man himself, as the Hall of Famer discusses his unforgettable basketball journey, favorite moments and the concept of nature versus nurture as it pertains to the topic of performance under pressure.
We hope you enjoy.