The Ralph Sampson Debate

One week until inductees for the Hall of Fame are announced, and Ralph Sampson remains an interesting debate, no matter how much attention he is not receiving.

The platform of the Sampson candidacy is simple: It’s the basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame, and Sampson was the kind of spectacular at the University of Virginia that rates consideration despite the letdown that came later in the pros.

Sampson and UCLA’s Bill Walton are the only players to win the Naismith Player of the Year more than once, and both did it three times. Sampson is the only two-time recipient of the Wooden Award. The obvious knock is that he never led Virginia to a national championship, reached the Final Four only once, and was the star of the team that endured one of the memorable upsets of any college sport –- the Chaminade loss -– but nothing takes away from the individual greatness of the 7-foot-4 center.

Most just remember his NBA path never reached its potential. Though he was named Rookie of the Year in 1983-84 while averaging 21 points and 11.1 rebounds in Houston and played in the All-Star game his first two seasons, Sampson’s career quickly deteriorated into injury and frustration. He never averaged more than 20 points again and broke double-digits on the boards just once the final eight campaigns with the Rockets, Warriors, Kings and Bullets, before a last run in Spain.

Knee and back problems limited him to 19, 29, 61, 26, 25 and 10 games the final six NBA seasons. When he finally left the league after 1991-92, Sampson had played in just 441 of a possible 820 contests. But what a college player, and that counts for something as a finalist for the basketball Hall of Fame.


  1. S the Best says:

    Ralph was a gentlemen
    hardly ever got out of character
    except when Boston gave him an elbow to his eye in that battle in 1986.
    Great in College
    Good in the Pro’s until injury… Let Ralph In

  2. Rob says:

    It’s not the NBA Hall of Fame… It’s the BASKETBALL Hall of Fame… Sampson has more than earned a spot & should have gone in 1st-ballot. He was Kevin Garnett before KG arrived & I think we can all agree that his college career was HOF worthy. And looking at his 1st couple NBA years, there’s little argument there. And I still remember Magic Johnson lobbying to get him after playing in an all-star game with him. But it’s his overall NBA career that I see so many holding against him, so I say this to you….. as far as the NBA goes, the only difference between Sampson & Bill Walton, is that Bill was able to sit on the bench & cheer Bird, McHale, Parish & others on to a title!!!!

  3. Sean says:

    Ralph Sampson ABSOLUTELY should be in the basketball hof. 3 Naismiths, 2 Woodens, ROY as a center, All Star MVP as PF in his 2nd year, buzzer beater in 3rd year to beat Lakers in Englewood…

    His knees were shot. Had he done all of that in college & his 1st 3 years in the NBA—–then been hit by a car—–you’d all say ‘how good he was’. He was ahead of his time, the prototype to the 7-footer who could face the basket that dominates the NBA landscape today.

    It would be a crime if he didn’t make it.

  4. Mike says:

    Yes you heard it here first.. Talked to Ralph today. He got a call yesterday and was told he did not get in.

  5. Mike says:

    I can tell you for a fact that Sampson did not get in.

  6. lakerssuck says:

    ok this is not a topic of what other should be in the hall instead of sampson so stop hijacking the thread. either add on about sampson or go somewhere else.

  7. Paul says:

    @Mike (March 29, 2011 at 10:06 am):
    Laettner is in the HOF (as part of Dream Team I). But many collegiate athletes have been inducted, particularly women, since there didn’t use to be a women’s pro league so college was all they had.

    It’s a shame Sampson never won a NBA or NCAA title, but then again neither did Karl Malone or Charles Barkley.

  8. Ed says:

    1985 NBA all-Star MVP…Ralph Sampson!
    What does it tell about his quality?

  9. The Giant Baba says:

    He was a great college player. I think they should put him in. Look at some of the other players Bill Walton & Sam Bowie great college players but both were bitting with the injury bug through out their pro careers.

  10. Jason says:

    Im sorry, but I have to disagree and say he doesn’t deserve to be in the HOF. I mean if you inducted players simply on the fact they had great college careers, we’d be inducting ALOT more people, and probably players most of you have never heard of! The thing by allowing great college careers into the HOF is their playing days are only small and limited. Most players make the jump these days after one year, only a few stay for 4 years and have an impact all four. But the HOF is meant for players that have made names for themselves over a long period of time. I mean for his first 3 or 4 years in the league, Penny Hardaway was one of the 5 best players in the league, some even suggested he was better than Jordan in 95!! But the difference was Penny suffered alot of injuries and never reached his potential, like Yao, and like MANY others. If we induct people for being the first of something, then induct Kevin Love. Didnt he just break the NBA record for consecutive double double’s? A number no one else has done? So would you put him in the HOF already?

    Sorry but Ralph Sampson doesn’t deserve HOF status, it should be reserved for players, coaches who have proven their worth and impact on the game of basketball over a decent period of time, like at least 9,10 years.

    • Sean says:

      Someone’s comparing Penny Hardaway to RALPH SAMPSON? Penny Hardaway didn’t have the college career.

  11. Sp says:

    So many terribly-worded comments in this blog. If you can’t speak english very well, speak your own language. The only people that will get mad at you are the small group who fit in both categories of ‘not having enough time to translate’ and ‘caring way too much about one more opinion’.

    Ralph Sampson doesn’t deserve a HOF spot before Dennis Rodman. Not ever. 5 Championships, multiple rebounding titles, DPOY, multiple all-defensive selections, all-nba, multiple all-star selections. Who cares about the rest of his life? Rodman would have to be the most highly accoladed player still not in the HOF, surely?

  12. well dunno if being able to pull down two supporting pillars using your own strength qualifies to be a hall of famer. but yet again what do you expect from stern, clear judgement? fair play?

  13. Tenki says:

    Wataru Misaka was of Asian descent, but he’s American. He was the first non-white, though.

  14. Tenki says:

    Sorry guys, Ronnie Seikaly WAS the first Asian to play in the NBA.

  15. Markos says:

    I have no problems with Sampson making the Hall on the basis of his college career. But if he does, it only points up the biggest Hall injustice, which is Artis Gilmore not being a member. Not only did Gilmore have a great, lengthy pro career, but he single handedly took an obscure Jacksonville University team all the way to the NCAA Championship game. And this was at a time when college ball was dominated by a handful of super powers, so probably even a greater achievement than if it happened now.

    The only reason I can think of Gilmore being ignored is some kind of residual prejudice against the ABA, where he had his best pro years. But he was still an All-Star caliber NBA center, in the deepest era for the center position in history. If Gilmore played now he would be the most physically dominant center in the game. Yes, bigger and stronger than Dwight Howard. In fact, many experts consider Gilmore second only to Chamberlin as the physically strongest player ever.

  16. wait, what.. says:


  17. mezstah says:

    Artis Gilmore deserves to be in the hall first. After that Bernard King. But A-train first an ABA and NBA legend why he isnt in yet is a mysterie to me.

  18. spliftout says:

    I think he deserves it!!! And the MVP is a popularity contest proof KB24 1 MVP – ridiculously annoying and does anyone actually think the Lakers would be a serious contender without him? It seems the criteria changes every year to avoid what KB is doing when he was averaging 35 a game his team wasnt good enough and he was winning championships it was because his team was too good now he’s more of a facilitator on most nights and now its all about stats ? I don’t get it I think the Fans should decide and if they did the past 10 yrs wouldve looked alot different I bet…. sorry to change the subject…

    • Yao says:

      You realize that if the fans got to choose the MVP Yao would have won every single year since he came into the league, right?

      Kobe has definitely earned another MVP or 2, but come on – fan voting would be an absolute joke because of homers like you.

  19. lakerssuck says:

    the hall of fame is not just nba its also for all basketball so that includes ncaa and on that ralph deserves to be in for 4 all time great college years , 3 incredible nba years and 2 more solid nba years. Yes if he makes it is gonna take at least 10 more years to get in possibly though.

    • Gary says:

      Thank you, my point above exactly. The people that don’t care aren’t real ball fans and don’t know anything about basketball other than when the playoffs start.

  20. Dean says:

    Not-to-mention that GREAT mid-air turnaround flip shot he made against the LAKERS to advance to the next round of the playoffs! His illness is what prevented him from achieving GREATNESS! In the early days of the twin towers…it was Sampson, not Olajuwon, that showed the most promise!

  21. Lemw says:

    Ralph Sampson like Austin Carr had great college careers. Both should be allowed in the Hall of Fame for there achievements.

  22. LAKERS3PEAT says:

    who cares like david stern would care about all of your opinions

  23. Gary says:

    To the people saying NO. They are talking about inducting him into the “Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame”; Not the hall of fame for greatest NBA players. So when you have a guy who won the Naismith 3x and had notable awards in the NBA, it’s a very small argument to not have him in the HOF. Nuff said.

  24. JEWELL ROLLEN says:


  25. Mike says:

    Sampson in the hall of Fame? No.

    Amazing player in college, bust in the pros. Would he have been considered one the best of all time had he not been injury riddled? Yes. But ‘would haves’ don’t count.

    I don’t think a great college career alone can get you into the HOF (especially if you take an accumulative of a busted pro career into consideration). If that were the case Christian Laettner would be in the Hall as well.

    • robb d says:

      i totally agree. college and nba career are WAY DIFferenit…
      i agree with the christian lattener comment, raplph sampson was a nice or at least decent COLLEGE PLAYER ONLY>
      not worthy of NOH

  26. Robert Zenon says:

    I remember those Ralp Sampson years in college basketball, he truly dominated the court and the media. I don’t know Sampson was a prime example of a college player that should have left early. How many years did he play college basketball. For him I think it took a toll, that spendily frame of his lasted just 2 season in the NBA. He and Sam Bowie were the reason scouts started looking at players that were too thin as not having an NBA ready build, but guys like Reggie Miller and and even Kevin Durant today, that its just the way things are. Some guys careers can go long and some short. Sampson’s for the most part went short. I am a Laker fan, Jerry West almost stole him for us, what could have been. I still remember his ugly shot that sink the Lakers in the first round of the playoff and Magic’s ensuing brick! It spark a whole new magic and about 3 more Titles for LA. He played his butt off in college for a Virgina team that basically was sub par almost at every other position. He was the Wilt Chamberlian of college in his day and everyone else was Bill Russell. Of course he deserves to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame. We ain’t talk Sam Bowie here!

  27. Dean-Oliver says:

    His college career is surely worthy of high praise. To think the Lakers thought about trading Kareem for him before he even officially declared (THIS WAS IN 1982 LOOK IT UP! A proposed three way trade with the Lakers, Knicks and Jazz)shows how great he was in college. Of course had he not gotten injured in ’86, and had a he grabbed some more rebounds for goodness sakes, could have been potential NBA HOF. Hakeem overshadowed him though–Even then.

  28. Marcel says:

    I’m just glad he punched Jerry Sichting and cursed on live television ( called his ejection a bs call) during the finals. I hated those Celtics. Twin towers couldn’t get it done. In all fairness, if he hadn’t gotten injured, he would have been much better.

    • todd says:

      he showed from his rookie year with 21 and 11 that without injuries he would have been a no brainer hall of famer. you’ve got to look at the hall of fame and see if anyone else is in it based solely on a college career. if so, he gets in automatically because his college career is as spectacular as anybody else in history’s.

  29. S Herb says:

    its a him in…

  30. Mark Cotten says:

    All these youngins commenting on Sampson when they probably werent even born to see Sampsons greatness in college and injury riddled pro career. Him and Hakeem hmm my bad”Akeem” at the time led Rockets to the Finals in i beleive 86 i could be off a year. But nonetheless if its college career Hall OF Fame yes. NBA HOF no. Injuries killed his NBA career not only that Akeem was the man and he was second fiddle. But the original TWIN TOWERS 7-4 and 7-0 Olajuwon really 6-10 was a joy to watch.

  31. ALEXP says:

    it’s too bad that he did play in this era…a 7’4” center that wanna play a point guard position. well a least he has a highlight that no laker fan would forget…when he throw that prayer with few seconds left to beat the lakers for the western conference final…to be inducted to hall to the fame…i would say “NO”

  32. allaround baller says:

    sorry, but Ralph Sampson is over rated. Let say he’s gonna make it. Than HOF need very much sapce for another. not a hall again

  33. tata says:

    It is the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and he is a 3 time Naismith winner. It is a no-brainer.

  34. Gary says:

    Since it’s the basketball hall of fame I don’t see why he shouldn’t be in it. When you consider that YaoMing will be in the Hall of Fame (for being the first Asian player if not nothing else) you should have no problem giving a guy like this a place.

    • ron says:

      and y not? every first should be in the hall of fame, so if i was the first person to 20 MVPs i wouldnt be in the HoF? dude get real, you should realize not everyone makes the NBA and its an achievement for some people.

      • Kap says:

        Dude, it’s an achievement for everyone that makes it to the NBA. No matter how short or disappointing their career is. If it was that easy all of us would be playing some form of professional sports.

        As for your comparison of being the first to 20 MVPs and Gary’s point of Yao being the first Asian in the NBA, it totally doesn’t make sense. Of course someone with 20 MVP’s is making the HoF! There’s hundreds of great players that DON’T have an MVP that make the Hall. He was using Yao as an example of a player that has also come into the league with extremely high expectations and is being held back from injuries and adjustments to an NBA game that he wasn’t accustomed to when he came over which slowed down his dominance at the start of his career. Yao also does have the fact he is the first Asian in the NBA which yes is likely to garner him HoF votes and attention, but that doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY reason he’ll make the Hall, yes it could’ve been had he flamed out, but it’s unlikely that it’ll be the only reason.

        His point was that Sampson was an exceptionally talented player, who won multiple awards, that only one other player has ever matched or succeeded in doing and that Sampson was hindered by setbacks and injuries, hardly his fault/doing and with that said it shouldn’t hold him back from his candidacy for the [b]Basketball[/b] Hall of Fame.

        You get real.

      • Karlo Michael De Castro says:

        Yao wasn’t the first Asian in the NBA. He was only the first Asian to be drafted number one in the NBA Draft. The first Asian in Wang Zhizhi who played in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers and the Miami Heat.

      • Gary says:

        What the Heck are you talking about? I just put that he SHOULD be given a place. I notice someone else is using Gary on here. That wasn’t me.

      • Gary says:

        @ Ron, sorry I just got how you worded that (terribly) so ignore my other response. And to Kap, thank you because that’s exactly what I meant.

    • Taylor says:

      Yao wasn’t the first asian player. I think it was Wang ZhiZhi. Also, there was a player by the name of Mengke Bateer that began playing in the NBA a year before Yao did. From what I understand, Yao was the 3rd asian player to join the NBA.

    • Najee says:

      Actually Gary, Wataru Misaka was the first Asian player and also the first non-white player to play in the NBA. Misaka was actually Japanese-American. Wang ZhiZhi became the first Chinese player to play in the NBA when he was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 2000. Yao has the most success out of these too though.

  35. prix says:

    Who cares…atleast Bill Walton son play in L.A…sometimes everybody plays good and even the best but the politics in basketball does exist…and the media plays a very important role…look at the MVP race right now…Dwight stats are far more better than Rose…but stats dont win MVP…Rose is a great player but hes no Steve Nash that makes his team mates better..the team mates of Rose makes him better…and thats the difference…the media makes it overated…Its just like Sampson been rob!!!!