Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson: you miss relationships, not basketball

ralph-sampson-gs-warriorsFormer NBA All-Star center, Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson, whose NBA career was shortened by injuries, recently spoke with NBRPA about his current activities and recalled how he first got into basketball.

“My passion for basketball started in about the third grade. I was growing up fairly quickly as far as height and I had a passion for baseball. I loved baseball, but my body kind of grew out of baseball fairly quickly,” Sampson recalled.

“I loved to pitch, but my arm was getting a little bit laxed and I would hit people in the little league and the other places I played. So they moved me to first base and I was then catching the ball with my opposite hand so I wasn’t using the glove. My mother told me that I had to use the glove. They moved me to outfield, but I said that was too much running, so I ran on to basketball and stayed there and loved it ever since,” he added.

Speaking of his two sons (Robert Sampson, Ralph Sampson III) who are pursuing careers in pro basketball, Sampson said he was proud of them.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for me to have two sons that are embarking on the game of basketball at the college level so they can actually get their feet wet and the professional level. I look forward to them being successful as well in doing what they can do,” he said.

Former NBA All-Star went on to recall how he went through the transition from the game to ordinary life.

“The main adjustment is getting adjusted to just the camaraderie that you had across the board. You miss that every day. It’s not the basketball that you miss; it’s the friendships that you miss. And the battles you go through to constantly get there,” he said.

“I think that even when I go through my time throughout the day, I think about they guys you played with and against. I can remember Maurice Lucas (Portland Trailblazers), who has passed on now, he would punch me in the chest every time he saw me, I mean even after basketball, he’d say, “Here take this with you.” I’d say, “Yea I know, I took so many of them from you at the beginning of every game and so let me give you one back.” So you have those little things that are special to you no matter what. For basketball afterwards, it’s the details of stories that will last a lifetime,” Sampson noted.

ralph-sampson-rockets-defenseSamson went on to say that currently he’s more passionate about life.

“I’m excited about getting up every day creating some opportunity for kids and also just enjoying every minute of it. Because life is precious and you have to enjoy it,” he noted.

Sampson also spoke a little about the Winner’s Circle Foundation that he started.

“I believe that people can be winners in life. It started off just being a youth after-school program that focused on middle school kids. We would help kids with their homework. It is just an overall passion. However, right now we are retooling the foundation while I work for the Phoenix Suns,” he explained.

If it wasn’t for the injuries, the career of the giant 7’4 center Ralph Sampson probably would’ve been different. The player once predicted to be the greatest ever in the NBA had played just 456 games in the NBA seasons. Sampson, a Hall of Famer, NBRPA member, was the No. 1 pick in the 1983 NBA Draft.

He would go on to play 9 years (1983-1992) in the NBA with the Houston Rockets, the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento Kings, and the Washington Bullets. In 2012, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The 7’4 Sampson played his first 4 seasons with the Houston Rockets, averaging at least 15.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 1.3 blocks per game. He reached a career-high 22.1 ppg average in 1984-85.

As the knee and back injuries began to worsen, Sampson was traded to the Golden State Warriors, then to Sacramento Kings. Sampson finished his career with a 10-game stint with the Washington Bullets, averaging 2.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.8 bpg.

He played in total of 456 NBA games (started in 363), averaging 15.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg in 29.8 mpg. Having retired from the NBA, Sampson played eight games for Unicaja Ronda of the Spanish League during the 1991–92 season.

First part of the interview: Ralph Sampson regrets not playing longer with Hakeem Olajuwon


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