Ralph Lee Sampson Jr., professionally known as Ralph Sampson, is an American former basketball player. Standing at 7 feet 4 inches, Sampson is known as one of the most gifted basketball players of his generation. In school, he led his team to victory in two ‘State AA Championships,’ one each in 1978 and 1979. In college, he played for the university’s basketball team, the ‘Cavaliers.’ Breaking the record of Bill Walton, another basketball stalwart, he was the second person to win three ‘Naismith College Player of the Year Awards.’ He was also the first person to win two ‘John R. Wooden Awards’ and became the most-recruited basketball college basketball player of all time. In 1983, Sampson was the first pick for the ‘National Basketball Association’ (NBA) and was drafted by the ‘Houston Rockets.’ He then went on to win the ‘NBA Rookie of the Year Award.’ In 1986, Sampson had his first knee injury, which was worsened by several back injuries later. He retired from the ‘NBA’ in 1992. He ultimately retired from his playing career after the 1994–1995 season with ‘Rockford Lightning.’ In 1996, he was inducted into the ‘Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.’
Childhood & Early Life
Ralph Sampson was born on July 7, 1960, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He attended the ‘Harrisonburg High School,’ where he led the school team to victory in two ‘State AA’ basketball championships, one each in 1978 and 1979.
Sampson attended the ‘University of Virginia’ and played for the university’s basketball team, the ‘Cavaliers.’ In college, he earned three ‘Naismith Awards’ as the ‘National Player of the Year’ and also a couple of ‘Wooden Awards.’ After his junior year, he could have been part of the 1982 ‘NBA Draft,’ playing for the ‘Los Angeles Lakers,’ but decided to stay at school instead.
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In 1983, Ralph Sampson became eligible for the ‘NBA.’ He was picked by the Houston-based team ‘Houston Rockets’ for the 1983 ‘NBA Draft.’ As a rookie, Sampson played in the ‘All-Star Game’ and won the ‘NBA Rookie of the Year Award.’
In 1984, Sampson was reselected by the ‘Houston Rockets’ for the 1984 ‘NBA Draft.’ He played center, alongside another 7-footer, Hakeem Olajuwon, and the two came to be known as the “Twin Towers.”
In 1985, both Sampson and Olajuwon played the 1985 ‘NBA All-Star Game.’ Sampson, with a score of 24 points and 10 rebounds, earned the game’s ‘MVP Award.’ The same year, Sampson scored a record, setting 30 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 steals in a match against the ‘Denver Nuggets.’
In 1986, Sampson had one of his career highlights when, in a buzzer-beating shot, he dethroned the ‘Los Angeles Lakers’ as the ‘Western Conference’ champions. The victory sent the ‘Houston Rockets’ to their second ‘NBA’ finals in the team’s history. The same year, he experienced his first knee injury.
In 1987, following his knee injury, Sampson fell out of favor with the ‘Houston Rockets’ and joined the ‘Golden State Warriors’ and then the ‘Sacramento Kings.’ As his knee injury worsened, followed by a back injury, he could never play a full season for the rest of his ‘NBA’ career.
In 1991, Sampson played a 10-game stint with the ‘Washington Bullets.’ By this time, he had played in 10 ‘NBA’ seasons.
In 1992, Sampson worked as an assistant to the head coach of the basketball team at the ‘James Madison University.’ He also coached a minor league professional team in Richmond, Virginia.
In 1992, Sampson played eight games for ‘Unicaja Ronda’ of the ‘Spanish League.’ In 1994, he played for the ‘Rockford Lightning’ in the ‘Continental Basketball Association.’ He then retired for good.
Awards & Achievements
In 1981, Sampson won a lot of awards and honors, such as the ‘Naismith Player of the Year,’ the ‘Oscar Robertson Trophy,’ the ‘Adolph Rupp Trophy,’ the ‘Associated Press Player of the Year,’ and the ‘UPI Player of the Year.’ He won all these awards for three consecutive years, till 1983.
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In 1982, Sampson won the ‘John R. Wooden Award’ and the ‘NABC Player of the Year Award.’ He won both these awards a second time, in 1983.
In 1983, Sampson won the ‘Sporting News Player of the Year Award.’
In 1984, Sampson was the recipient of the ‘NBA Rookie of the Year Award’ and the ‘NBA All-Rookie Team Award.’ The same year, he was also awarded with the ‘NBA All-Star Award,’ which he won for three more times till 1987.
In 1985, Sampson won the ‘NBA All-Star Game MVP Award’ and was selected for the ‘All-NBA Second Team Award.’
In 2011, Sampson was inducted into the ‘National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.’ The following year, Sampson was inducted into the ‘Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.’
In 2010, Sampson published a book titled ‘Winner’s Circle – The Ralph Sampson Game Plan: What Great Players Do Before, During, and After a Basketball Game.’
Scandals & Controversies
In 2005, Sampson pleaded guilty to owing more than $300,000 as child-care support for two children from two different mothers in Northern Virginia.
In 2006, Sampson served 2 months of jail time for mail fraud connected with the purchase of an SUV.
Family & Personal Life
Sampson has two sons: Ralph Sampson III, who played college basketball for ‘Minnesota,’ and Robert, who transferred to ‘Georgia Tech’ after playing three seasons with the college basketball team at the ‘East Carolina University.’ He also has three daughters: Rachel Lee Sampson, who studied at ‘Stanford University’ and works at ‘ESPN,’ Leah Sampson, and Anna Aleize Sampson.
Global sportswear brand ‘Puma’ has released the ‘Ralph Sampson OG,’ an original basketball sneaker named in honor of Ralph Sampson.