Former University of Virginia All-American Ralph Sampson was one of 12 individuals selected Monday for enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Members of the Class of 2012 were announced in New Orleans, the site of the men's Final Four.
Sampson, a 7-foot-4 center, was a three-time national and ACC player of the year. He will be inducted during this year's enshrinement ceremonies, set for Sept. 6-8 in Springfield. He is the first U.Va. player chosen for induction into the Naismith shrine.
Joining Sampson in the Class of 2012 are five-time NBA All-Star Reggie Miller; Don Nelson, the NBA's all-time winningest coach; two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain; distinguished basketball official and coordinator Hank Nichols; former UCLA and NBA star Jamaal Wilkes; and the first women's professional basketball team, the All American Red Heads.
Five other individuals were elected in February by specific selection committees: Mel Daniels from the American Basketball Association Committee; Don Barksdale from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Lidia Alexeeva from the International Committee; Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee and Nike's Phil Knight from the Contributor.
Sampson made the college game his private domain during a shimmering four-year career (1980-83) at U.Va. He scored 2,228 points, grabbed 1,511 rebounds and led Virginia to a four-year record of 112-23.
The Cavaliers won the NIT in 1980, his freshman year, and reached the NCAA Final Four in 1981. U.Va. was ranked in The Associated Press top 10 for 49 consecutive weeks during Sampson's residence in Charlottesville. He was inducted last year into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Houston Rockets made Sampson the No. 1 selection in the 1983 NBA draft. He played nine NBA seasons — with Houston, Golden State, Sacramento and Washington. He was chosen as the league's rookie of the year in 1984 and participated in three NBA All-Star games before his career was cut short by injuries.
Miller, one of the best perimeter shooters in NBA history, followed his sister, Cheryl, into the Hall of Fame. Cheryl, regarded as a pioneer who helped push women's basketball into the modern era, was inducted in 1995.
"To be a part of this exclusive club is pretty special," Miller said.
Said Nelson, a five-time NBA champion as a player: The call informing him of his election "was a great moment for me. I'm the luckiest man in the world. I've been involved with the game of basketball for over 60 years, and I've never had a bad day, even when we lost games. They've all been great days."
Nichols refereed 10 Final Fours and six national championship games. The All-American Redheads, regarded by many as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters, entertained millions of fans over six decades, breaking untold social barriers along the way.
University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team was ousted by Kentucky in Saturday's national semifinals, was among the finalists who were passed over by the selection committee.
Also falling short were four-time All-Star Maurice Cheeks, former Celtics and Rockets coach Bill Fitch, four-time All-Star Bernard King and longtime college and NBA coach Dick Motta.