HARRISONBURG, Va. (WVIR) - As a national college superstar at UVA in the earlier 1980′s, Ralph Sampson played against a young Michael Jordan, and many other stars.
“In college you’re playing against a Gene Banks, and Albert King, Buck Williams, to Al Woods and every team had an NBA player, right?" Sampson said. “So you had that, so you didn’t worry about Michael Jordan back then because every night you’d get your tail beat if you weren’t ready to play.”
Sampson says that he saw flashes of Jordan’s greatness when playing against him at the collegiate level. ESPN’s new documentary on M.J.“The Last Dance” traces his success after that.
“Now it’s just the evolution of the legend, right? So, we saw him in college and the memories of him playing in Chapel Hill against us where he stole the ball in the middle of the court and went down and dunked it. One of his iconic dunks, and you saw flashes of greatness there," said Sampson.
At a tough time for sports fans, the Michael Jordan documentary fills a gap and provides important perspective for sports fans of all ages.
“For basketball fans in general to at least have the opportunity, and especially at this day and time when people are dealing with this virus, for people to have something to look back upon and remember," Sampson said. “Frankly, it’s out at a good time where it gives people the opportunity to look at some sports that we don’t have on air right now, to look back and say ‘Okay, great,’ but also have the younger generation see how it evolved from a Michael Jordan, to a Kobe Bryant, to a LeBron James.”
While Sampson thinks Jordan’s career is a good win to feature, he’d like to see a documentary that focuses on the players stars like him and M.J. grew up idolizing.
“They even gotta go deeper than that, they should look back at the Julius Erving’s and the Elgin Baylor’s as well because it all started with those guys. Michael just evolved and took it to a different level," Sampson said.
The last dance documentary will continue airing two new episodes each Sunday at 9 pm on ESPN. The final two episodes air on Sunday, May 17.