UVA legend Ralph Sampson returns to Virginia hometown with plans to give back

Published: Apr. 5, 2019 at 6:37 PM EDT
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The Rockingham County Courthouse isn't the only thing towering over Harrisonburg these days.

Drive through town and it's hard to miss 7-foot-4 basketball legend Ralph Sampson.

"We just moved a month ago," Sampson told WDBJ7 Wednesday.

Sampson is back in his hometown after spending most of his life in major cities, most recently living in Los Angeles.

At 58 he's ready to focus on philanthropy.

"Right now it's all about legacy," Sampson said. "It's all about life."

Most of his life right now is dedicated to his Sampson Family Foundation, a non-profit he founded to raise money for things causes like cancer research.

Sampson's father, Ralph senior, is a cancer survivor.

"My father had prostate and lung cancer," Sampson said. "He's 82 years old and 100% healthy."

Sampson is also getting involved in one of the Shenendoah Valley's leading industries: agriculture.

"Our region here in Rockingham County is probably one of the largest in the state agriculturally, so there are some things we want to do here as well that you will see in the future," Sampson explained.

His efforts to fund raise are benefiting from the resurgence of UVA basketball, which has led many fans to reminisce about Sampson and the glory days of Cavalier basketball.

"It's brought back memories and people that have watched me play while I was at UVA and beyond," Sampson said. "People are saying they're glad UVA is in the Final Four. People I don't even know. So it's bringing back all those memories and relationships that I didn't even know about, and that is very special to me."

One relationship from UVA that's meant a lot to Sampson over the years is the connection he's maintained with his former head coach, Terry Holland.

"I saw him this week, on his birthday," Sampson said. "I stopped by to say hello to him and his wife. We have a great relationship and that will last forever."

While Sampson may have left UVA for the NBA more than 35 years ago, he says the lessons he learned here and relationships he developed have shaped his life ever since. He's happy to be closer to those connections and his parents in Harrisonburg.

"Right now it's all about legacy," Sampson said. "It's all about life in Harrisonburg."