How Troy Murphy went from NBA millions to Columbia’s dean’s list

After leaving college early to pursue an NBA career, Troy Murphy has gone back to school ... in the Ivy League.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Former NBA player Troy Murphy has always been a bit unconventional — he was a stretch-4 before the trend spread through the league years later, yet still rebounded like a traditional big man — but his post-basketball career choice is far from normal.

Murphy, who has been out of the league since 2013, is now an undergraduate student at Columbia University pursuing a degree in sociology. He has done exceptionally well, too, earning a 3.8 GPA and making the dean’s list last semester, according to the New York Times.

Despite having earned just under $70 million throughout his NBA career, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Murphy returned to school because he left Notre Dame, his alma mater, after his junior season to go to the NBA and never earned his bachelor’s degree.

Now, Murphy is approaching completing his degree with the same attitude he had while playing basketball. From the Times:

Professional athletes often struggle to find focus and purpose after their playing days, after the constant external validation has dissipated. Becoming a full-time undergraduate student at an Ivy League university, then, has given Murphy a means to concentrate his considerable competitive energy.

“For me it was: I’m going to prove I can beat this guy. I’m going to shut him down or outscore him or outrebound him,” he said. “Now, you have these professors who are some of the best, and you want to test yourself. You want to prove you can get an A in the class.”

To gain admission to Columbia, Murphy had to take a grueling entrace exam, which he studied for by meeting with a tutor three times a week. Murphy claims he studied "25 hours a week for two months and took more than 20 practice exams." The hard work clearly paid off.

Murphy’s parents are retired schoolteachers, so it makes sense that he’d want to return to school and finish his degree (he majored in sociology at Notre Dame, too) — it’s just not the traditional career arc for an NBA player.

When asked what he misses most about the NBA, Murphy had a quirky response: "the socks." What he doesn’t miss about the league? Airplane turbulence, which gives him "deep anxiety."

Murphy is on pace to graduate in December.