|Center / Power forward|
|Date of birth||July 7, 1960|
|Listed height||7 ft 4 in|
|Listed weight||228 lbs|
|NBA Draft||1983; Round: 1 / Pick: 1st|
|Selected by the Houston Rockets|
|1987-1989||Golden State Warriors|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Ralph Sampson at NBA.com|
Ralph Lee Sampson (born July 7, 1960 in Harrisonburg, Virginia) is a retired American professional basketball player who plays at Center / [[Power forward]. He was arguably the most heavily recruited (for both college and the NBA) basketball prospect of his generation. Playing for the University of Virginia, he was one of only two male players in the history of college basketball to receive the Naismith Award as the National Player of the Year three times (Bill Walton of UCLA was the other male, Cheryl Miller of USC won three times, as well). He was the only player to win the Wooden award twice. Professionally, Sampson was a #1 overall draft pick in the 1983 NBA Draft, three-time NBA All-Star, and NBA Rookie of the Year for the Houston Rockets. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated an unprecedented six times in a span of less than four years (issues of December 17, 1979; December 1, 1980; March 30, 1981; November 29, 1982; December 20, 1982; and October 31, 1983).
Standing 7'4" (2.24 m) but at a lean 220 pounds (100 kg), he could dunk the ball almost without jumping yet was agile enough to dribble behind his back and often even tried to emulate the role of a point guard. For the Houston Rockets, although he was well over 7 feet tall, he played power forward and often guarded men much smaller. This was because 7'0" (2.13 m) Hakeem Olajuwon played center and the versatile Sampson preferred to play forward. Together, they were called the "Twin Towers" between 1984 and 1988.
Sampson played in three NBA All-Star Games, 1984, 1985, and 1986. He was voted the 1985 All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player. Sampson's performance in the 1985 Game prompted Magic Johnson to say, "He really made me look good. All you've got to do is throw the ball high and anywhere near him, and he'll get it. A player that big and that graceful, who runs like he does, is really something. I wish he was on my team every game. We might never lose a game."
In the 1985-86 NBA season, Sampson had (in his third season with the Rockets) lifted the Rockets from 14-68 in the 1982-83 season before his arrival to one of the best in the NBA. In Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Western Conference Finals, his last second tip-in at the buzzer beat the Los Angeles Lakers and sent the Rockets to their 2nd NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.
From this point on Sampson's NBA career quickly deteriorated, as he became burdened with numerous knee injuries. And in 1988, Sampson was traded to the Golden State Warriors, and from this point on saw only very limited action. Noting his 1989 efforts with the Sacramento Kings where he basically was a third-string player, averaging 4.2 points per game and 3.0 points per game in the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons. He finished his NBA career with the Washington Bullets in 1991-92 where he averaged two points per game.
In the short period of time he was healthy, Sampson won numerous individual awards, but he won neither a national nor an NBA championship. He played in the Final Four with Virginia in 1981 and his Houston Rockets played in the NBA Finals in 1986, but each time he was turned away without winning the elusive championship. The Virginia Cavaliers returned to the Final Four in 1984 — the year after he graduated.
After the NBA
Sampson served one year as an Assistant Coach at James Madison University before coaching a minor league professional team in Richmond, Virginia.
In 2006, Sampson was indicted on perjury charges in a federal child support case. In this case, Sampson was held liable for over $300,000 in child support charges to support children that he fathered by two women.
On September 7, 2006, Sampson pleaded guilty to mail fraud in the U.S. District Court in Richmond and received a two month prison sentence. The plea to mail fraud was part of the agreement with federal prosecutors. Also as part of the agreement, charges of making a false claim, making a false statement about his finances in a child support case, and perjury were dropped. Sampson asked that he not be required to begin his two month incarceration until April 2, 2007, and U.S. District Judge James Spencer allowed the delay. He served his sentence in a facility located in or near Atlanta. His ex-wife, Aleize from whom he was divorced in 2003, and their four children also live in the Atlanta area.
Sampson now commutes between Atlanta and Virginia where he manages his company and foundation the Winner's Circle, a company that fosters various programs that support the educational, health and social issues of today by opening a pathway for success that encourages limitless possibilities for urban and culturally diverse youth.
- Ralph Sampson is referred to in the sitcom Full House, when D.J. refers to Sampson as "a building," and Bob Sagat's character refers to the Golden State Warriors, his team at the time, as "a city."
- In his senior year at the University of Virginia, Sampson lived in one of the prestigious yet small rooms on The Lawn, and had to have his dormitory room bed custom-built due to his height.
- Has a son named Ralph Sampson III, who is one of the top players in high school basketball. He stands at 6-11, and weighs 220 pounds.
- He was the topic of a trivia question in a contest conducted by The NBA Breakdown