Ralph Sampson stood out from the competition long before Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming, and Joel Embiid ever graced the NBA’s centre floors. The 7 foot 4 centre and forward, who spent half of his nine NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets where he averaged over 21 points per game in each of his first two seasons, was a formidable presence under the rim throughout his career. Sampson was a three-time College Player of the Year and the first choice in the 1983 NBA Draft before joining the NBA.
Sampson, who left the NBA following the 1991–1992 season, played basketball in Europe and worked as a coach before being inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. 2012 saw Sampson’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In September 2018, Sampson joined the Philadelphia-based venture capital firm SeventySix Capital, which also includes longtime Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard and former NFL running back DeMarco Murray as partners. Sampson will assist in overseeing the company’s Athlete Venture Group,
a relatively new division that connects elite sports professionals with leading companies and entrepreneurs in the field of sports technology. This month, I spoke with Sampson to learn his opinion on NBA players’ social capital in the current business environment.
You Recently Joined Seventy Six Capital, a Brand-New Force in Sports Marketing, Which Is Led by Ryan Howard. Explain Your New Position.
I’ve engaged in commercial endeavours outside of sports, and I quickly realised that until you’ve finished playing, you don’t have a great opportunity to understand how the sports business is conducted. Because of NCAA regulations, networking opportunities are not available to undergraduate students until they go to the professional level of athletics when they must start from scratch.
Since forming a team (for a commercial venture) is better than doing it alone, when (founding partners) Wayne Kimmel and Ryan Howard approached me, one thing that is extremely true about sports stuck out. You see, to achieve a desire, a team must work together. You apply the same thinking in the current technological environment. And because it is my personal objective and what drives me, SeventySix Capital was a perfect fit for me.
The NBA Today Seems to Be All About Super Teams. Does that Make the Nba More Marketable or Less?
The Celtics and Lakers were the two top teams in the 1980s. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have both been developing super teams around LeBron James. However, it all comes down to marketing and market share, and the Warriors’ success helps the NBA sell itself internationally,
just like it did with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Adam Silver and his staff are aware of how similar the NBA is to a team, and the league has done an excellent job of leveraging social media interaction to strengthen its brand in the modern day.
With the help of SeventySix Capital, which uses the social capital that was created as a result, you can achieve amazing things if you combine players with a strong work ethic and a passion for particular niches—such as video games, technology, or a person’s personal style that can be applied to a retail business, for instance.
Big Personalities Have Been a Staple of The Nba. Does This Make Nba Players a Natural Fit for Businesses Using Social Media?
In football, players wear helmets, but the quarterbacks and receivers—as well as the occasional tight end like Rob Gronkowski—are more prominently featured. While there are baseball players on the field, the best pitchers are a long way from the spectators in the stands.
Because there are just five players on at once (per side) as opposed to nine or eleven, I believe the basketball experience is a little more intimate. Having faces on the field makes it simpler for spectators to recognise and associate a player’s personality with their jersey number. From there, it progresses when combined with a player’s social media presence.
When the “big Centre” Was the Star Player, You Were There as An Innovator in Basketball. how Has the Nba Evolved Since Then?
Well, I wish I had the same talent today to perform in this period. With your back to the basket, big post-up moves appear to have vanished forever and may never return.
A 7-footer like myself was typically regarded to only be able to post up with his back to the basket and couldn’t shoot threes. I didn’t have Hakeem Olajuwon on my team in my first season. He was selected by the Rockets the following year, which allowed us to become the “Twin Towers” and give me more opportunities to face the hoop.
For a while, we were the only team in the West that could successfully compete with the Los Angeles Lakers. In a very pre-internet sense, that serves as sort of an illustration of the kinds of things fans go to watch in sports.
Naturally, the Lakers will have a fresh look now that LeBron James is a member of the team. The first five players for Golden State appear to be all-stars, with players who can regularly dominate and score from any spot. But there are also players like Milwaukee’s “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is amazing to watch.
There is no longer a 1-2-3-4-5 hierarchy of roles and responsibilities that apply to specific positions. Everyone can dribble, shoot, and run, and the game is constantly changing, which is what makes it fascinating.