Erick Dampier embodied longevity in his NBA career, no matter what team he played on he put in his all to help his team succeed. Fans and teams felt his impact on the court during a career that lasted for more than a decade and a half.
High School Years
Dampier led Lawrence County High School in Monticello, Mississippi to two state championships during his time there.
Dampier attended Mississippi State University and played on the school’s basketball team for three years.
In his first year at MSU Dampier got the opportunity to start in a majority of the games, starting in 25 out of his 29 played that season. He averaged 11.9 points per game (PPG), 8.7 rebounds per game (RPG), 0.8 assists per game (APG), 0.6 steals per game (SPG), and 2.2 blocks per game (BPG) in his first season there. The team went 9-7 in conference games, finished third in the West division of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), and didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament. MSU did finish the season on a high note with a winning record of 18-11. Dampier was also recognized for his productive first season and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and the All-SEC second-team.
Dampier’s numbers and production improved in his second year on the team. He got the opportunity to start in all 30 games and put up 13.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 2.6 BPG throughout the season. MSU finished second in the SEC west division with a 12-4 record and qualified for the NCAA tournament. They entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed in the West region. They took down Santa Clara University, the No. 12 seed in the first round. In the following matchup, they defeated the No. 4 seed, the University of Utah, to advance to the Sweet 16. Their March Madness journey came to an end in the Sweet 16 round when they got eliminated by the No. 1 seed, UCLA. The Bulldogs finished their season with a winning record of 22-8. Dampier’s improvements on the floor were rewarded at the end of the season when he was named to the All-SEC first-team.
Dampier’s junior year was the best season in his whole basketball career. He put up a career-high 14.5 PPG and 3.1 BPG while amassing 9.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 0.5 SPG for the season. The center got the start in all 34 games played during the season. MSU went 10-6 in conference play, finished first in the SEC West division, were named conference tournament champions, and qualified for the NCAA tournament as the No. 5 seed in the Southeast Region. They took down the No. 12 seed, Virginia Commonwealth University, in the tournament’s first round. The Bulldogs then went on to beat the No. 13 seed, Princeton University, in the following game. They continued to dominate as they took down the No. 1 seed, the University of Connecticut, in the Sweet 16. Their path of destruction didn’t end there as they dismantled the No. 2 seed, the University of Cincinnati, in the Elite 8. The Bulldogs’ championship hopes came to an end in the Final Four when they were beaten by No. 4 ranked, Syracuse University. MSU finished the season with a winning record of 26-8. To cumulate the season and his collegiate basketball career, Dampier was named to his second All-SEC first-team.
Finding his Footing in the NBA
Dampier was drafted 10th overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 1996 NBA Draft.
He spent his rookie season on the Pacers where he started in 21 out of his 72 games played. During his first year in the league, he averaged 5.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.0 BPG. The Pacers ended their season with a losing record and missed the playoffs.
During the 1997 offseason, Dampier was traded to the Golden State Warriors. He spent seven years on the warriors, primarily as their starting center, starting in 372 games out of his 425 played with the team. He had his best NBA season in his final year with the team, averaging an impressive double-double with 12.3 PPG and 12.0 RPG for the season, along with 0.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 1.9 BPG to go with it. His points per game and rebounds per game during the 2003-04 season were career highs for him during his time in the NBA. In his seven years with the Warriors, the team didn’t make any playoff appearances but he did put up 9.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 1.7 BPG during his time there.
Welcome to Dallas
In the 2004 offseason, Dampier arrived to the Dallas Mavericks via sign and trade. In his first year with the Mavs, he started in 56 out of his 59 games played. His numbers dropped from the year before, as he amassed 9.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.4 BPG during the season. The Mavericks finished off the season 58-24 and clinched the fourth seed in the Western Conference. In the first round of the playoffs, the Mavs defeated the Houston Rockets in seven games. In the second round of the playoffs, Dallas was eliminated in six games by the Phoenix Suns. Dampier started in all 13 playoff games and averaged 7.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 1.4 BPG.
NBA Finals Appearance
The 2005-06 season was a good one for Dampier and the Mavericks. His numbers continued to decrease but he played in all 82 games throughout the season and started in 36 of them. Taking a more backup center role for the season, Dampier averaged 5.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.3 BPG. The Mavericks had another dominant season, going 60-22 and clinching the fourth seed in the West. They steamrolled through the Memphis Grizzlies, sweeping them in the first round. The Mavs then took down their rivals, the San Antonio Spurs in seven games. In the Western Conference Finals, Dallas got their revenge from the year prior and eliminated the Suns in six games. For the first time in franchise history, the Mavericks reached the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, for the Mavericks and Dampier, reaching the Finals would be the closest they would get to the championship in 2006, as they lost to the Miami Heat in six games. Dampier got the opportunity to start in two of the 19 playoff games he took part in. He accumulated 5.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, and 1.3 BPG in the playoffs.
Later Years in Dallas
Dampier’s numbers improved a bit the year after the Mavericks’ Finals appearance but it still wasn’t close to his best year on the Warriors. He became a starter again for the Mavs, starting in 73 out of his 76 games played during the 2006-07 season. He put up 7.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.1 BPG for the season. The Mavericks went 67-15 and owned the best record in the league. Dallas’ regular season luck didn’t transfer over to the playoffs as they were eliminated in six games by the Warriors. The Mavs became the first No. 1 seeded team in NBA history to lose a seven-game series to a No. 8 seeded team.
His scoring began to decrease again in the 2007-08 season even though he was still being used as Dallas’ starting big. He started in 64 out of his 72 games played, while his stat line for the season was 6.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.5 BPG. He continued to excel on the defensive end, but his offensive abilities were beginning to decline. The Mavericks finished the season 51-31, good enough to clinch the seventh seed. Dallas had a tough battle in the first round of the playoffs, losing in five games to the New Orleans Hornets. Dampier started in all five games but only managed to put up 3.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.2 SPG, and 0.6 BPG, a decrease in all of his stats from the regular season.
The 2008-09 season was a continuation of the previous year for Dampier. He played and started in 80 games throughout the season but his numbers continued to slip. He put up 5.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.2 BPG during the season. The Mavericks went 50-32 and finished sixth in the West. They took down the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Mavs lost in five games to the Denver Nuggets. Dampier started in all 10 playoff games and averaged 5.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 0.9 BPG.
The 2009-10 season was Dampier’s final season in Dallas. He started in 47 out of his 55 games played. His numbers stayed in the same realm as the previous year as he put up 6.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.4 BPG for the season. Dallas went 55-27 and finished second in the West. Even though they finished second in the conference, they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Spurs. Dampier started in four out of the five playoff games he took part in but he lacked on the offensive end, averaging 1.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.2 SPG, and 1.0 BPG in the series.
NBA Journey Continues
During the 2010 offseason, Dampier was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats but was waived by the team before the start of the season.
In early November he signed as a free agent with the Heat. He spent one season in Miami where he started in 22 out of the 51 games he played in. His numbers continued to fall on the Heat where he managed to rack up 2.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 0.9 BPG in his sole season there.
Dampier became a free agent at the end of the season and stayed in free agency until February. In February, he signed two 10-day contracts with the Atlanta Hawks, then signed with the team for the rest of the season on March 1, 2012. He came off the bench in all 15 of his games with the team. His production on the Hawks was very limited as he averaged 0.1 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.1 SPG, and 0.3 BPG. Atlanta made the playoffs but was eliminated in the first round by the Boston Celtics. Dampier participated in 4 out of the 6 playoff games, all coming off the bench. His numbers improved during the playoffs where he averaged 4.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 0.3 BPG.
Atlanta would be Dampier’s final stop in the NBA before retiring.
Dampier played a big role in the success of the mid-to-late 2000s Mavericks. In his six seasons with the team, he averaged 6.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.3 BPG. On paper, his numbers might not seem eye-popping but what he did on the floor, especially on the defensive end helped the Mavs succeed.
Dampier’s son, Erick Dampier Jr., went viral in early 2022 when he was ranked the #1 6th grader in the country.
Even though, Dampier’s best season happened in college he still made his mark in the NBA. His NBA career spanned a decade and a half, with a majority of it him being a crucial piece on the Warriors and the Mavericks. He knew his role and played it accordingly, helping his team succeed in any way he could. Dampier is a player that will be remembered by Warriors and Mavs fans for years to come.