Sampson was a dominant player in college and the NBA. He racked up numerous awards throughout his playing career and earned his way to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Ralph Sampson had a tremendous college career
A native of Virginia, Sampson was one of the most heavily recruited basketball prospects of his time. In high school, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated six times. He decided to stay in-state for college and attended the University of Virginia. There was a lot of excitement when the school discovered that the top player in the country was coming there.
Sampson immediately made an impact on the team. During his freshman year, he was named the ACC Rookie of the Year and helped lead Virginia to an NIT title in 1980. Over the next three years, Sampson took his game to the next level at Virginia. He was a three-time ACC Player of the Year and National Player of the Year award winner. Sampson also was a first-team All-American during those three years. The Virginia center put together an impressive college resume.
After his junior year at Virginia, Sampson considered entering the 1982 NBA draft, but he decided to stay for his senior year. He certainly had a college career to remember. Virginia ended up retiring his No. 50 jersey.
Ralph Sampson, the No. 1 NBA draft pick
It was no surprise who the No. 1 pick in the 1983 NBA draft would be. The Houston Rockets selected Sampson, and he wasted no time his rookie year. Sampson started as a rookie, and in 82 games, he averaged 21 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and two assists. He was named to the All-Star team as a rookie and won the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
The next season, Sampson continued to dominate for the Rockets. He averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds and was named to his second consecutive All-Star team and was named the MVP of the 1985 All-Star game. Sampson spent four and a half seasons in Houston, and during the 1987-88 season, he was traded to the Golden State Warriors. Throughout the rest of his career, Sampson dealt with injuries and saw his numbers decrease, but he continued to have an impact on the court. After playing for the Warriors, he spent time with the Sacramento Kings and the Washington Bullets.
Ralph Sampson’s career after the NBA
After his NBA career, Sampson spent a brief time playing in Spain and in the Continental Basketball Association. After retiring from basketball, he spent some time as an assistant coach at James Madison University and then was a head coach for a minor league team in Richmond, Virginia. In 2012, he returned to the NBA and joined the Phoenix Suns’ player development staff.
Sampson only spent one season with the Suns, and as of 2019, he moved back to Virginia and plans to give back to his hometown. Not too many people can say they had a successful career like Sampson, and he will always be considered one of the best big men to play in the NBA.