UVA’s Sampson Wants New Career in NBA


Thirty years ago, the Houston Rockets’ selection of former Virginia star Ralph Sampson as the top overall pick in the NBA draft appeared to be a slam dunk.

After all, the 7-foot-4 Sampson had dominated the college game during his four seasons with the Cavaliers. From 1981–1983, he was a three-time Naismith College Player of the Year, a three-time First Team All-American and a three-time ACC Player of the Year. His size and agility made him one of the most highly-touted NBA prospects ever.

By the mid-1980s, he was on his way to realizing that immense hype, being named to four straight All-Star teams (1984–1987) and leading the Rockets to the 1986 NBA Finals along with “Twin Towers” teammate Hakeem Olajuwon.

But nagging injuries to his knees and back starting in the 1986–1987 season robbed Sampson of much of his abilities. He never again approached his production at Virginia or the early part of his NBA career, retiring as a player in 1995 after a year-long stint with the CBA’s Rockford Lightning. In 2007, Sampson was in the news for the wrong reasons when he pleaded guilty in a case involving mail fraud and served two months in jail.

Now 52, Sampson is trying to establish a second NBA career as either a coach or a front-office employee. He spent the 2012–2013 season working with the Phoenix Suns in a player development capacity. After it was announced that he wouldn’t be returning to the Suns next season, Sampson recently told AZCentral Sports that he has leads for other jobs. Ralph Sampson profile

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