Calvin Murphy

Niagara University and NBA Basketball Player

As a basketball player Calvin Murphy had it all: speed, quickness, great hands, ball handling skills, great leaping ability and the shooting eye of an eagle. He had it all – except for height.

Murphy was only 5-9, but his diminutive size never became a handicap. His raw talent was so great that he became a dominant player in a game dominated by much bigger men.

At Niagara University Murphy scored 2,548 points in three seasons, an average of 33 points per game, a feat that enabled him to become a unanimous three time All-American, a rarity in college basketball. As a scorer Murphy dominated game after game. During the 1967-68 season, his first as a varsity starter for the Purple Eagles, he was the high scorer in 23 of 24 games, averaging 38.2 points per game. The next season, with teams throwing up every type of defense to try and stop him, he averaged 32.4 points per game and was the high scorer again in 23 of 24 games. As a senior Murphy averaged 29.4 points and was the high scorer in 25 of 29 games.

By the end of his sensational college career Murphy had set virtually every scoring record at Niagara. He was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Rockets who moved to Houston after one year. Right away Murphy began a rocket ride to NBA fame. Though the smallest player in the league he made the NBA All-Rookie team in 1971. For 13 seasons he started for the Rockets averaging 17.9 points per game and ending his career with a total of 17,949 points. In NBA post season play Murphy averaged 18.5 points in 51 playoff games. His best season was 1977-78 when he averaged 25.6 points in one of his 11 1,000+ point seasons. During the 1980-81 campaign he made 78 consecutive free throws, a record that stood until this past season. In May he was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame.

A nationally ranked baton twirler, Murphy was a joy to watch. He loved to compete and he always gave his all. He was also an all around team player. On defense he worked hard and whenever the situation called for it he would unselfishly dish off to a teammate with a better shot. His quickness and incredible shooting ability and his enthusiasm infused every one of his games with the same kind of excitement that Willie Mays brought to baseball.

One more characteristic makes Calvin Murphy stand tall among great athletes: His sense of humility was as great as his talent.