Ralph Sampson is a former American basketball player, who played for The Houston Rockets. The 7-foot-4 Harrisonburg native who now lives in suburban Atlanta, was the first pick of the 1983 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets. Read more about his bio, family, height, etc.

Ralph Sampson – Bio

Ralph Sampson Jr. was born as Ralph Lee Sampson on 7 July 1960 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. His horoscope sign is Cancer and his nationality is American. He was born to father, Sr. Ralph Sampson and mother, Sarah Sampson and grew up along with his siblings. Not so much is known about his academic background but what is known is that he graduated from the University of Virginia. At 7 ft 4 inches tall, Sampson’s entrant into the world of American basketball – the NBA brought with it a lot of expectations.

Sampson played three seasons for Houston Rockets before injuries began to take their toll. In those three seasons, the NBA Rookie of the Year averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds. He then had three knee surgeries which led to his eventual retirement from the game as a four-time All-Star. His career highlight will probably be that moment when he dethroned the Los Angeles Lakers as Western Conference champions with a last-second shot. The buzzer-beating shot did not only end the reign of Lakers as champions but also dashed their hopes of winning the NBA title back-to-back.

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Ralph Sampson’s Career

Ralph Sampson’s basketball career began in high school. He was already 6 feet 7 inches tall by the ninth grade and by the time he got to high school in Harrisonburg, Virginia, he was already reaching 7 feet 3 inches. After averaging 19 points and 17 rebounds as a junior and 14 points and 11 rebounds as a sophomore, as a senior at Harrisonburg High, Sampson led the school team to victory twice in the state AA basketball championships (in 1978 and 1979) by averaging nearly 30 points, 19 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots.

In 1983, Ralph Sampson led the Cavaliers to an NCAA Elite 8 appearance while playing as the center for the University of Virginia, only losing in the regional final to North Carolina State team led by Jim Valvano. The Houston Rockets drafted him in the 1983 NBA Draft and he averaged 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds. He also played in the All-Star Game and the went on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He was notorious for quick dribbling and dashing runs – thanks to his size and agility. He could dribble with guards and run the floor as well as anyone. He was tipped for greatness before he turned pro. Sampson was expected to reach the heights of basketballing greats before him like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and others.


In 1984 NBA Draft, the Rockets chose to pick another giant – the 7-foot Hakeem Olajuwon out of the University of Houston. The selection was met with mixed reviews. While some felt the combination of two 7-foot plus players in the same team would not work out, there were others who felt it was a devastatingly positive move. And in order to accommodate the new ‘giant’ Olajuwon, Sampson had to change his game a bit, playing a new style of power forward and it worked out really well. In the 1984-85 season, Sampson had his best individual campaign and the Rockets made the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. He averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds, earning a berth on the All-NBA Second Team. The ‘twin giants’ played in the 1985 NBA All-Star Game, and Sampson earned the MVP Award.

Ralph Sampson
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It didn’t end there. The Rockets won the Midwest Division while and defeated Los Angeles, four games to one over five games in the Western Conference Finals by the next season. The best part is the miracle of Sampson in the Game 5 of that series in Los Angeles. With the scores at 112 for both teams and less than a second left on the clock (after the Rockets fought back from a losing position), Ralph Sampson turned the game in its head by providing the game’s highlight and one of the most memorable moments in NBA Playoff history by launching a time stopping shot that sailed through and got into the hoop at the buzzer, giving his team a 114-112 victory over the Lakers (a team that had the likes of Magic Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar) at the death, thus, ending the LA Lakers quest for a successive championship crown.

Ralph Sampson is the only athlete to receive an unprecedented pair of Wooden Awards and also only the second one to receive three Naismith Awards as the National Player of the Year. He is arguably the most heavily recruited college and professional basketball prospect of his generation appearing an unprecedented six times on the cover of Sports Illustrated in less than four years.

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Ralph Sampson was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. He was named to the ACC 50th Anniversary men’s basketball team as one of the fifty best players in Atlantic Coast Conference history in 2002. Only three Virginia Cavaliers has been given that recognition.

Ralph Sampson’s Injuries, Decline

Like every great tale, the story of Ralph Sampson greatness on the basketball courts came winding down. His overall input in the game started declining as the injuries began to take their toll on the ‘giant’. Sampson suffered an injury on his back as a result of a fall during the NBA Finals against Boston. His season was not the same after that. Consequently, during the 1986-87 season, he fell out of favor with Rockets Coach Bill Fitch which led to his moving to the Golden State Warriors in a swap deal which saw Eric “Sleepy” Floyd move the other way. Despite the move, his injury troubles continued and he never played a full slate in the next four seasons. He would be later traded Jim Petersen to the Sacramento Kings prior to the 1989-90 season. But a total of 51 games in two seasons with an average 7.2 point can only be described as a disappointment.

After being released by the Kings in 1991, Sampson joined the Washington Bullets where he was just able to play 10 games before being dropped and he continued the remainder of the season playing eight games for Unicaja Ronda in the Spanish League.

But he had had enough as Ralph Sampson called time on his professional playing career in 1993 at the age of 32. In all, the man was touted to be the greatest basketball player ever in history went on to play just 441 games in 10 NBA seasons, just a little more than half the 820 games scheduled. Looking back on his career, Sampson admitted that he had rushed his recovery process and came back too quickly from his three career-defining knee surgeries, decisions he considers rash and which cost him his career.

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Ralph Sampson’s Married Life/Family

Ralph Sampson married his wife, Aleize R. Dial in 1986 when he was 26 years old. The wedding ceremony was held in in Anniston, Ala and the couple exchanged their vows in front of  200 guests. However, the marriage did hit the rocks and ended in a divorce in 2003. But though the marriage ended, Sampson battled with several court charges for child support leveled up against him by his wife and other women. Even though their relationship lasted just for 17 years, it produced four children – two sons and two daughters. Both sons are basketball players, while the elder daughter works at ESPN and younger assists her father.

His first son, Ralph Lee Sampson III, played collegiate basketball for Minnesota. His second son, Robert Alan Sampson, transferred to Georgia Tech after playing his first three seasons (2010–2013) of college basketball for East Carolina University. His first daughter, Rachel Lee Sampson, graduated from Stanford University and works at ESPN, and the youngest is Anna Aleize Sampson.

It is rumoured that Sampson has children from women outside his marriage to Aleize and even though the rumours have not been confirmed or even denied by Sampson, a source claimed he fathered a daughter in 1985 and another daughter in 1988 with an anonymous woman.

Ralph Sampson’s Height, Body Stats

Ralph Sampson weight 228 lbs (103.4 kg) Ralph Sampson height 7′ 4″ (224 cm)

Ralph Sampson’s Net Worth

Ralph Sampson’s current net worth is estimated to be around $6 Million as he seems to be enjoying a quiet and nice life after retirement.

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