Going to the basket like the pro he is
In 2001, as a college junior at Notre Dame, Troy Murphy left his academic career behind in the hopes of joining the National Basketball Association and pursuing a dream. Later that year, that dream—so elusive for so many—would come true when Murphy was drafted as the 14th pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft. After a solid 12-year career with many NBA teams, Murphy decided to leave behind basketball and finish his degree at Columbia’s School of General Studies. Max Rettig spoke with Troy yesterday, where he discussed his life, his NBA career and his academic ambitions.
Max: What is life like for you at Columbia? The recent New York Times profile came out with the headline “A Big Man in the N.B.A., but Not on Campus at Columbia.” Do you feel that way? Do people recognize you, even though you’re trying to keep a low profile? Are you trying to keep a low profile?
Troy Murphy: I think when I went back to school, one of the attractive characteristics about Columbia is the fact that they have this General Studies program where they have people from nontraditional backgrounds…so I fit that bill having a nontraditional background. I’ve just tried to immerse myself in the whole experience, and it’s been really interesting. A great learning experience and growing experience for me.
In terms of people knowing who I am, yeah, I think, some of the athletes knew I played basketball and stuff, so there were a fair amount.
M: How involved are you in the campus sports scene? Do you pay attention to the basketball team, go to games at all? You had a successful NBA career–do you consult for the basketball team at all? Do you have any connections with individual players?
T: Yeah, I’ve been to a couple games this year, and went to a couple games last year. I only started in January last year… I haven’t been to any NBA games since I was a player. I’d like to go, but schoolwork takes up a large amount of my time… On weekends, especially since football has ended, and they’ve put the NBA games on on Sundays and stuff, I’m able to catch those, so those are fun. I’ll catch those, and now that the playoffs are starting, I’m trying to tape the games and watch them a little bit.
I root for the teams I’ve played for, and for some of the guys I’ve played with. Rooting for Golden State—they’ve had an unbelievable year—and then I’m also rooting for Chicago in the Eastern Conference too, so I enjoy it as a fan now.
M: You last played for the Mavericks. How was playing for Mark Cuban?
T: It’s pretty cool. He’s really involved, more so than any other owner on any other team I’ve played for. He’s right there, he’s on the plane, you have direct access to him. He makes his presence felt. He definitely lets you know how he feels.
M: You were drafted in the same first round as some all-star players, namely Jason Richardson, Tony Parker, and Pau Gasol, as well as Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA. Do you have any thoughts on being part of such a successful and historical draft class?
T: Yeah, I never really thought about it like that. I’m proud to be part of a draft class that had a lot of successful players. I know a lot of people give the 2000 class a tough time, so to be part of the 2001 class is probably better. ….we have guys that are still contributing in the NBA. I think Tony Parker was part of that class, Pau Gasol, it had some great European players. That was the year that a lot of high school guys came out and a first-time high school guy was picked number one, so it was a good class to be a part of, yeah.
Read Troy’s thoughts on the NBA, NCAA and school