How Calvin Murphy still stands out among Houston Rockets all-time greats

Calvin Murphy
Calvin Murphy /

While the younger crowd knows Calvin Murphy as the Houston Rockets analyst with wacky suits and a bright personality, he was a special player in his era.

Houston Rockets fans that watch the team regularly have no doubt seen Calvin Murphy during halftime and postgame shows, likely donning an exotic suit and laughing with his distinguished charm. While he is a treat to have on the broadcasting team, Rockets fans should never forget what he means to the franchise from a basketball perspective.

Despite being 5-9, Calvin Murphy found a role in the NBA in the 1970s and early ’80s with the Houston Rockets. Though he began his career in San Diego with the Rockets, his second year in the league saw the team move from San Diego to Houston.

Unfortunately, Murphy could never grab the ever-elusive championship trophy for the Rockets and only saw one All-Star appearance. So why should Rockets fans hold his career in respect? To start with, he did something that you simply do not see too often in the NBA: he spent his entire career with the Rockets.

Calvin Murphy’s tenure with the Houston Rockets is exceptional

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Calvin Murphy. One of these names clearly sticks out as quite different from the rest, but they all have one thing in common: they all played for one team and one team only.

Loyalty to a franchise is not an overabundant commodity in the NBA, especially in the modern NBA. It’s great that players now have more of an ability to decide their own future, but there is a unique type of value that exists in a player sticking around with one team for their entire career.

Though his first year may have been spent playing for a different city, Calvin Murphy spent his entire career as a Rocket and the vast majority of it in Houston. In a decade where championships were impossible to come by for the Rockets, Murphy helped give the team and the city a sense of NBA identity.

As we know, Murphy’s involvement with the team did not stop after his days of playing were over. He has been actively involved with the team in broadcasting and analysis roles for years now and is still doing so with as much energy and enthusiasm as ever.

The vast majority of Rockets greats, however much they accomplished for the team, can’t say that they played for no other team in the NBA. Calvin Murphy is one of the few that can.

Calvin Murphy has made his statistical mark on the franchise’s history

If you only look at his career in the grand scope of NBA history, you may wonder what makes Murphy stand out. But if you look at his legacy as it pertains specifically to the Rockets, you will see why he means as much as he does to the franchise.

Ironically, the presence of James Harden has illuminated Murphy’s place in the team’s history books, as he has become the first Rocket in quite some time to surpass Murphy in a few categories.

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Until Harden, Calvin Murphy held second place for total points scored as a Rocket in the team’s history, only behind Hakeem Olajuwon. This is also true of total steals. Similarly, the Beard is the only Rocket to have eclipsed Murphy in total number of assists generated in the franchise’s history.

In 2018, James Harden also became the Rockets’ leader in total number of points scored in a single game at 60, topping Murphy’s own massive 57-point performance against the Nets.

It took nearly 40 years and the first MVP recipient in Houston since Hakeem Olajuwon to surpass Calvin Murphy in these statistics. That is no small legacy for a team.

Murphy also remains unparalleled in a few areas for the Rockets, mainly revolving around his free-throw shooting. He is amongst the best free-throw shooters in NBA history and is certainly number one for the Rockets.

Shooting nearly 90 percent from the free-throw line for his entire career, Murphy also ranks third in consecutive free throws made in NBA history at 78. Additionally, he ranks third in total free throws made in franchise history, once again only behind Harden and Olajuwon.

The Pocket Rocket was amazing at getting to the free-throw line and even more amazing at making his free throws. Centers naturally get more foul calls, and James Harden is unique in the landscape of NBA history in his ability to get to the charity stripe, so the fact that a player of Murphy’s physical stature is able to compare to those two in that category is highly impressive.

Murphy is one of the best point guards in Rockets history

For all of the sensational talent we have seen come through Houston, one position where the Rockets do not have a lot of Hall of Fame names is the point guard position. As it stands now, the Rockets have 12 names total who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Some of these names are players who did not exactly have a positive experience on or with the franchise, such as Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen. All of the others are either shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards, or centers: no point guards.

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Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook are highly likely to make the Hall of Fame and will obviously retire with some time spent in Houston.

Still, unless the Rockets win a title with Westbrook, his representative career years will be seen as his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Chris Paul’s time in Houston will be remembered by many NBA fans and most Rockets fans, but most of what represents his career also occurred outside Houston.

Calvin Murphy is currently the only point guard in Rockets history to make the Hall of Fame whose player identity is tied to solely the Rockets.

Calvin Murphy is an excellent analyst of Rockets basketball and brings a lot of entertainment and enthusiasm to Rockets fans who regularly tune in to the local broadcasts.

His crazy suits, bright smile, and light-hearted humor make the Rockets viewing experience all the more pleasurable.

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But to only appreciate his work in front of the T.V. camera would be a disservice to his impressive and respectable career as a player for the team. The Houston Rockets have seen few players as tenured, talented, and with as much impact on the franchise stat books and history as Calvin Murphy.