Matt Bullard is one of the most recognizable players in Houston Rockets history.
The former Hawkeye forward from 1988-90 played nine of his 11 NBA seasons in Houston. He was a member of the first Rockets squad to win an NBA championship. He ranks eighth in franchise history in games played and fourth in 3-point field goals.
Despite a long career on the hardwood, Bullard’s contributions after his playing days might be how he’s best remembered in Houston.
Bullard, 47, is in his 10th season as an analyst and color commentator for Rockets TV broadcasts. Teamed up with longtime play-by-play man Bill Worrell, the pair call around 90-100 NBA games each year, including preseason, regular season, and the first round of the playoffs. NBA legend Clyde Drexler joins the group for the team’s home games.
“It’s been great being able to stay with my team for this long,” Bullard said. “Working with Clyde and still seeing guys like Hakeem (Olajuwon) brings me great joy. It’s incredible working with and being around the same group of guys for such a long time.”
Equipped with vast hoops knowledge gained from 11 years in the NBA, the 3-point specialist envisioned broadcasting as his next career path.
Even while he was still playing, the former Hawkeye was looking for ways to gain on-air experience. For seven years, he spent the NBA offseason providing radio analysis for the now-defunct Houston Comets of the WNBA.
When his playing career ended, Bullard participated in the short-lived ESPN reality show Dream Job. Former NBA athletes competed for a one-year contract at the network as an NBA analyst. The former Hawkeye finished second to Dee Brown, but was happy with the end result. He got the Rockets gig shortly thereafter.
Like working on his jumper, Bullard is always growing and developing his skills behind the microphone. He looks up to Doug Collins, who he calls “the best color analyst in the NBA.”
Worrell, Houston’s play-by-play man for more than 30 years, said Bullard brings a number of significant aspects to the telecasts. He connects with younger fans on Twitter, and his knowledge of the game is extensive. It’s like having an NBA scout in the broadcast booth, Worrell said, because of his work ethic and intense film study of every player in the league.
While Bullard wants to inform and educate the audience, he also hopes to entertain. He does his best to bring humor and sarcastic wit to each Rockets broadcast, throwing in an obscure pop culture reference, or a quote from “Caddyshack” or “Fletch” every now and again.
Before entertaining his TV viewers, Bullard brought fans to their feet with his long-range shooting abilities.
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The Des Moines native played his first two collegiate seasons at Colorado, averaging double figures both years and earning Big 8 Freshman of the Year honors in 1986.
A coaching change after his freshman year was the catalyst for what he called “the most miserable year of my life.” He transferred to Iowa to play his final two seasons, and despite battling knee injuries, averaged 9.1 and 11.4 points per game, respectively, in his junior and senior campaigns.
Because of his heavy involvement with the NBA over the last 20+ years, Bullard said he hasn’t had much time to watch college basketball. That’s changed recently, though, as there may soon be another Bullard playing his college ball in Iowa.
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Bullard’s son, A.J., is a 6-8 high school sophomore who just finished his first season of varsity hoops. Collegiate programs have taken notice of his son, the former Hawkeye said, including Iowa and Iowa State.
After his professional playing career, Bullard described his body as “completely shot.”
Five knee surgeries and more than a decade of professional hoops can have that effect on someone. After several years of healing, Bullard is back on the court.
“One of the greatest joys in my life is being able to play basketball with my son,” he said.
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“It’s fun to watch him imitate what I do — almost like watching myself grow up all over again.”
So how will Bullard be remembered in Houston — NBA broadcaster or player?
Worrell leans toward Bullard’s vocal talents. As long as he wants to continue calling games, Worrell sees a lengthy broadcasting career for his partner in the booth.
“After watching him play and now sitting next to him the broadcast booth, I think he’s a superstar as a broadcaster, whereas he was just a good NBA player,” Worrell said. “I really believe after listening to everyone in the league, he may be the best local analyst of all the teams in the NBA.”
Bullard doesn’t mind being remembered as a broadcaster, he said, because it has allowed him to connect with a whole new generation of basketball fans.
“What I enjoy most is still being involved,” he said. “I’m a part of the game, and I get to share my passion. Sometimes I think about how great it would be to take my broadcasting career to a national level, but this is the perfect job at this point in my life.”