Houston Rockets Hall of Fame member Ralph Sampson was on hand to witness Yao Ming’s enshrinement ceremony.
Ralph Sampson was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in 1983. At 7’4″ the center was arguably ahead of his time given his versatility. Sampson came to the NBA with high expectations given his accolades such as winning College Player of the year 3 times and the Wooden Award twice. And so it was no surprise he would be on hand with two NBA centers who changed their era of basketball were enshrined.
Ralph Sampson Houston Rockets Era:
Sampson played for the Houston Rockets from 1983-84 through to 1987-88 prior to being traded to the Warriors 19 games into the season.
Though Wilt Chamberlain is remembered as the best center ever to play in the NBA, Sampson may be recalled as the first unicorn at the center position. Houston jumped on their chance to draft the 7’4″ Sampson given his ability to easily register double-doubles, his ball handling skills and shooting range. When Houston drafted Hakeem Olajuwon two seasons after Sampson the pair became known as the Twin Towers. Many attach the ‘Twin Towers’ moniker to the Spurs duo of Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Yet the Rockets duo were the originators as Duncan didn’t enter the NBA until 3 seasons after Olajuwon.
In his first 3 seasons with the Rockets Sampson averaged over 20 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2 blocks. Heading into his fourth season Sampson had missed a measly 3 games in 3 years, but then he suffered the first of many injuries in his career. Plagued with back and knee issues Sampson never recovered sufficiently to reach his ceiling.
Sep 09, 2016; Springfield, MA, USA; Yao Ming speaks during the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Ralph Sampson and Yao Ming: :
In retrospect of Sampson and Ming‘s careers, the similarities of the two big men are undeniable:
- Each are centers
- At 7’4″ (Sampson) and 7’6″ (Ming) the 2 are giants, even by NBA standards
- Both drafted by the Houston Rockets
- Selected first overall in their draft class
- Possessed versatile games, especially for their size
- Careers shortened due to repeated injuries
- Both are now members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
- Tallest 2 members of NBA Hall in Fame.
So it was not surprising with Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal entering the Hall that Sampson would be in attendance.
Sampson opines on Yao and Shaq:
NBA TV’s Rick Kamla interviewed Sampson specifically asking about the O’Neal and Ming
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Only 2 people who played basketball who displayed the same power, Wilt (Chamberlain) and
. Sampson called Shaq a very dominant player in his own right, a great guy and a great human being.
On who was more dominant Wilt or Shaq: Sampson gave Wilt Chamberlain the nod based on the competition he faced during that NBA era. The former Rockets player noted with just 8 teams in the league Wilt had to face Bill Russell, Willis Reed, and Wayne Embry nightly.
On Yao: Sampson noted Ming was another player who transcended cultures to make his mark in the NBA. Ralph also said at 7’6″ Ming is one of the few people he has to look up at.
Interesting Sampson had so little to say about Ming, then again he had little to say about the Houston Rockets in his own induction speech.