Ralph Simpson

Ralph Derek Simpson (born August 10, 1949) is a retired American basketball player. He played professionally in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1970 to 1980.

Simpson, a 6’6″ guard/forward, was a star at Detroit’s Pershing High School, where he teamed with Spencer Haywood to win the Michigan state championship in 1967. He was offered a tryout for the 1968 United States Olympic team, but turned it down. After two strong years at Michigan State University, he signed a professional contract with the ABA’s Denver Rockets (later the Denver Nuggets), and he would represent the franchise in five ABA All-Star games.

Simpson had his finest season in 1971–1972, in which he averaged 27.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. After the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, Simpson joined the Detroit Pistons, but his level of production dropped significantly, from 18 points per game in 1975–1976 to 11 points per game in 1976–1977, and after one-and-a-half seasons, he returned to the Denver Nuggets, now one of the ABA teams who had joined the NBA. However, he averaged only 5.5 points during his second tenure with the Nuggets, and after two more seasons as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, he retired in 1980.

Simpson scored 11,785 combined ABA/NBA points in his ten-year career. His 9,953 points were the most for the Nuggets during the team’s time in the ABA.

In 1996, Sampson was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was named to the ACC 50th Anniversary men’s basketball team as one of the fifty best players in Atlantic Coast Conference history – one of only three Virginia Cavaliers so honored.

In 2005, Sampson pleaded guilty to owing more than $300K in back child support for two children from different mothers in the Northern Virginia area. In 2006, he was sentenced to two months in prison for mail fraud associated with the purchase of an SUV.

On November 22, 2011, Sampson was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. In February 2012, Sampson was honored by Houston Rockets and fans as a member of the Decade Team of the 80s. On April 2, 2012, Sampson was named a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s induction class of 2012.

In October 2012, Sampson joined the Phoenix Suns’ player development staff. In June 2013, Sampson announced that he would not return as an assistant head coach.


Career highlights and awards
4× NBA All-Star (1984–1987)
NBA All-Star Game MVP (1985)
All-NBA Second Team (1985)
NBA Rookie of the Year (1984)
3× College national player of the year (1981–1983)
3× Consensus first-team All-American (1981–1983)
3× ACC Player of the Year (1981–1983)
3× First-team All-ACC (1981–1983)
No. 50 retired by the University of Virginia
Career NBA statistics
Points 7,039 (15.4 ppg)
Rebounds 4,011 (8.8 rpg)
Assists 1,038 (2.3 apg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2011

Men’s basketball
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1979 San Juan Team competition