Will all of those college honors—player of the year three times in a row—somehow be pushed aside? What about the fact that he was NBA Rookie of the Year in 1984? What about the Most Valuable Player award at the 1985 NBA All-Star Game? What about the desperation turnaround shot at the buzzer in the 1986 playoffs that doomed the Lakers and sent the Rockets into the Finals? Does any of this count?
"As far as I'm concerned, people always expected too much of the guy," one former teammate in Houston says. "I saw him have two or three unbelievable seasons. He'd score 24 points a game, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots, but people still would want more. It's just impossible sometimes to meet people's standards." The former teammate is Jim Petersen.
The day last week that Sampson decided to go on the injured list was his first day in his new house in Sacramento. He still was writing in the journal. The entries were still optimistic. He would straighten out this running business. He would be back, better than ever. "To play here, I have to be 110 percent," he said. "I have to get some mobility."
He would work on his own, do the exercises. He would be around, perhaps, for the birth of the baby at the end of December. Forget the debates about what he had or hadn't done. Forget the unkind words. He never worried about them much, anyway. Satisfy himself. What was it Russell said? Kareem already had the alltime scoring title. Wilt already had the alltime rebounding record. They were out of reach. What was left? Go for the championship. That was the long-term goal.
"There's no doubt in my mind," Sampson said. "I'll be back."
Sacramento. This was going to work. Somehow.