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Ralph Sampson

Basketball player Ralph Sampson was born on July 7, 1960 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Standing at 7’4’’, he was born with a natural talent for basketball. Sampson attended Harrisonburg High School, where he led the basketball team to victory in two State AA Championships in 1978 and 1979. Sampson then went on to attend the University of Virginia, where he received his B.A. degree and played for the university’s basketball team, the Cavaliers. During college, Sampson won three Naismith Awards for National Player of the Year and was only the second person to do so. He also received an unprecedented two Wooden Awards for Player of the Year. In 1980, Sampson and the Cavaliers won the National Invitation Tournament. In 1981, the Cavaliers made it to the NCAA Final Four.

Referred to as the most recruited college basketball player of all time, Sampson was the first pick in the 1983 NBA draft. Drafted by the Houston Rockets, Sampson won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and played in the NBA All-Star Game for the first of four times. In 1984, the Rockets drafted Hakeem Olajuwon and the two came to be known as the “Twin Towers,” an unstoppable basketball duo that played together in 1985’s NBA All-Star Game. Sampson was named MVP for that game, and earned a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. In 1986, Sampson injured his knee and was traded to the Golden State Warriors. He went on to play for the Sacramento Kings and the Washington Bullets. Unable to fully recover from several knee and back injuries, Sampson retired in 1992.

In 1996, Sampson was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. In 2002, Sampson was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference 50th Anniversary Men’s Basketball Team, a position that honored him as one of the 50 best basketball players in the history of the ACC. Sampson founded The Sampson Group, a consulting group, in 2005. In 2006, he went on to found Winner’s Circle Community, an online community dedicated to providing a forum for open and informed communication. That same year, Sampson also founded the Winner’s Circle Foundation, an organization to help young athletes achieve success. In 2010, he published a book entitled Winner’s Circle: The Ralph Sampson Game Plan; What Great Players Do Before, During and After the Game to help young athletes mentally prepare for and achieve success.

Ralph Sampson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on…

Accession Number

A2010.073

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/14/2010

Last Name

Sampson

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Waterman Elementary School

Thomas Harrison Middle School

Harrisonburg High School

University of Virginia

University of Virginia Darden School of Business

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ralph

Birth City, State, Country

Harrisonburg

HM ID

SAM04

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

It Takes Team Work To Make A Dream Work.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

7/7/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pancakes, Bacon, Eggs

Short Description

Basketball player Ralph Sampson (1960 - ) was one of the most recruited college basketball players of all time. He won three Naismith Awards and an unprecedented two Wooden Awards in college, and was a four-time NBA All-Star with the Houston Rockets.

Employment

National Basketball Association

Baloncesto Malaga

James Madison University

Richmond Rhythm

Phoenix Suns

Ralph Sampson Sportswear Inc.

Favorite Color

Purple

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ralph Sampson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ralph Sampson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ralph Sampson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ralph Sampson talks about learning about his maternal grandfather through stories

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ralph Sampson describes his likeness to his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ralph Sampson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ralph Sampson talks about his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ralph Sampson recalls his paternal grandfather's career

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ralph Sampson remembers his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ralph Sampson describes his likeness to his father

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ralph Sampson talks about his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ralph Sampson describes his mother's career

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ralph Sampson describes his parents' early relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ralph Sampson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ralph Sampson remembers Christmas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ralph Sampson recalls his neighborhood in Harrisonburg, Virginia, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ralph Sampson recalls his neighborhood in Harrisonburg, Virginia, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ralph Sampson remembers Waterman Elementary School in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ralph Sampson talks about his early growth spurts

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ralph Sampson talks about his experiences at Thomas Harrison Junior High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ralph Sampson remembers his extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ralph Sampson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ralph Sampson talks about his early influences

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ralph Sampson recalls playing basketball at Thomas Harrison Junior High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ralph Sampson remembers the role of sports in his family

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ralph Sampson recalls his early experiences of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ralph Sampson remembers playing basketball at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ralph Sampson talks about his basketball teammates at Harrisonburg High School

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ralph Sampson recalls the college basketball recruitment process

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ralph Sampson remembers his senior year of high school

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ralph Sampson remembers his college decision process

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ralph Sampson recalls visiting his top four college campuses

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ralph Sampson describes his decision to attend the University of Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ralph Sampson talks about LeBron James' career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ralph Sampson describes the collegiate basketball conferences

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ralph Sampson recalls his transition to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ralph Sampson remembers his sophomore year at the University of Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ralph Sampson describes his decision to complete his degree at the University of Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ralph Sampson talks about his academic experiences at the University of Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ralph Sampson describes his experience in the NBA draft

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ralph Sampson reflects upon the impact of the NBA on his life

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ralph Sampson remembers his teammates on the Houston Rockets

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ralph Sampson talks about his career with the Houston Rockets

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ralph Sampson remembers playing in the NBA All-Star Weekend

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ralph Sampson talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ralph Sampson recalls being traded to the Golden State Warriors

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ralph Sampson remembers being traded to the Sacramento Kings

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ralph Sampson describes his transition to the EuroLeague

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ralph Sampson talks about his knee injuries

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ralph Sampson recalls playing against Michael Jordan

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ralph Sampson remembers coaching at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ralph Sampson recalls founding Ralph Sampson Sportswear, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ralph Sampson talks about the Winner's Circle Foundation

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ralph Sampson remembers Kristal Watson

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ralph Sampson talks about the Winner's Circle Foundation's after school program

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ralph Sampson describes his book projects

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ralph Sampson reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ralph Sampson shares a message to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Ralph Sampson reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
Ralph Sampson remembers Christmas
Ralph Sampson describes his decision to attend the University of Virginia
Transcript
And now, tell me why was that particular Christmas with the--sounds like a Charlie Brown tree--$$(Laughter).$$--(Laughter) why was that one of the best Christmases?$$Because we had, you know, you go down and cut down your own tree. I think that was that may have been the year that and probably was that we kind of found out there was no Santa Claus either. And I think back at it at this point because that tree was my sisters [Valerie Sampson and Joyce Sampson Franklin] remember that tree very well as well even today. And it just was one of those years that everything that, that if you look back at it now you realize that parents [Sarah Blakey Sampson and Ralph Sampson, Sr.] may have been a little stressed out financially and trying to get things done because, you know, it could have went down three blocks and bought a Christmas tree, but we went to the country and cut one down. So I think that type of symbolic adventure going to the country and cutting a tree down instead of going and picking one up, put it on your car dragging it home made it more special. As far as remembering how it was done because you can do that every year and go down to the lot and pick one out but if you go in the country and chop one down, I think that's more, you would remember that a little bit more so and realizing that you can kind of see how that kind of affects a young kid and chopping it down and bringing it home and putting it up and making sure it has water on it, make sure it still want to live a little bit and then you go through the Christmas not knowing, you know, as a kid what that all means but also that we can remember back I think we were in our car and mom and dad were shopping and we were all in the backseat and they were getting stuff for Christmas and I was a little bit older and I can see they put the trunk up. I looked under the back window and you can see toys and stuff in the bag and said, "Oh, that's our toys." And they would close the trunk pretty quickly and say, "Oh, no, that's just stuff, that's just stuff we got." So, you know, like okay is there a Santa Claus, is there not Santa Claus, well, kind of what's going on with that. So that whole Christmas had a lot of that around it, the food, just the, you know, the being home spirit back then where it was very peaceful, very quiet, very symbolic to me as far as cutting down a tree and then also having those toys there under that tree as well.$I was the--still didn't know where I was going to school. I had the ability to try out for the 1979 Pan American team which I made, first high school player to make that team. And that was in Indiana University [Bloomington, Indiana] with Bobby Knight [Bob Knight]. I still hadn't picked a school so now he's recruiting me again and I'm on the campus and he got me there for a month and I'm playing and training and working out and maybe go to Indiana. I said, "No, no I don't wanna go to Indiana," you know, Bobby Knight that whole thing I didn't wanna quite do that. So I still didn't know where I wanted to go to school and then when I got back from that training and I make the team and we go for the summer to play and my mom [Sarah Blakey Sampson] said, "You need to make a decision, you know, the time--." I said, "I just don't know where I wanna go to school." So we set a date and said, "You gotta make a decision by this date," so setting this date so we had all the meetings and all the press and fanfare, press conference such and such et cetera and I still didn't--that night before I didn't know where I wanted to go so there was a lady that was very close to my mother at work and her family whatever, almost like a godmother and I went to her house that night, spent the night and the next day didn't go to school 'cause I--nobody--he didn't want nobody harassing me. Like I said, I don't know where I'm going to school, I didn't really know. So if you can imagine being in the, in the field house in this high school gymnasium and the stands filled with people outside the door and not even the top four University of Maryland [College Park, Maryland] and Lefty Driesell knocking at the door, "Don't go to no school. Let me in. I need to talk to you one more time." He had a guy named John Lucas [John Lucas II] that I became friends with 'cause I, one of those years that I went to camp in Maryland and John Lucas became a friend of mine even after the fact played with him in the NBA [National Basketball Association] and don't go, don't go to Maryland, go to (unclear) we'll give you a job and all this. Okay, great. He was at the door beating at the door so I come in the back of the gym. By that time I was still debating where to go to school and then when I get to the gym, I get there and tell my mom, I said, "I wanna cancel this. I don't, I don't really know where I wanna go." And she said, "Look you make a decision today so you go back there and you figure it out." So when I get there, I come out, I start evaluating I said, "Okay, I'm going to University of Virginia [Charlottesville, Virginia]." So told my coach [Roger Bergey]. He called the other school and said, "This is where he going to school at and this is what he's gonna do." So I get to the podium and they introduce, introduce my mom and dad [Ralph Sampson, Sr.] sitting beside me and we were talking about it and I said to the media, I said, "I think I'm going to University of Virginia." That word, "I think" became "you don't know," you know. I gave my reason so I did that so this whole business so he thinks he's going to Virginia but there might be a chance that he won't. So anyway then after I signed the paper then it's, you know, I'm at Virginia. So that happened, big hoopla and radio station and all the stuff in the State of Virginia and things happened so now I'm (unclear) Virginia Cavalier and so on and so forth, and then after the fact a couple days later, the coaches came over, we signed the papers and, and I became a Cavalier.