Before basketball, Calvin Murphy was a world-class baton twirler. He says he was bullied into it as his mother and all six of her sisters were twirlers. As an 8th grader, in 1963, he won a national championship in baton twirling. His reputation as a twirler earned him invitations to perform at major sporting events and the 1964 New York World's Fair. In 1977, at the height of his basketball career in Houston, Murphy won the Texas State Men's Twirling Championship.
Murphy was drafted by the San Diego Rockets (now the Houston Rockets) as the first pick in the second round (18th overall) of the 1970 NBA draft. In his first season, Murphy was nominated to the NBA All-Rookie team. A diminutive guard at 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm), Murphy was known for his quickness and defensive ability.
Murphy was one of the best free-throw shooters ever, setting NBA records for most consecutive free throws made and for the highest free throw percentage in a single season (1980–1981). Both records have since been broken. He set many other records within the Rockets organization, including that of all-time leading scorer until that record was broken in 1994 by Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Rockets made it to the NBA Finals in 1981, losing to the Boston Celtics in six games. After retiring from the NBA in 1983, Calvin Murphy was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
After retirement, Murphy continued to work for the Rockets organization in numerous roles, mainly as television analyst for Rockets games. He is currently the halftime and post-game analyst for local Rockets broadcasts.