Ralph James, Jr. ’91
Basketball - Hall of Fame Class of 2006
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Ralph was a four year starter and co-captain of the men's basketball team. He was the co-recipient of the Bingham Award winner in 1990 with fellow inductee Peter Ciavaglia '91. In 1991 he became the first player in Harvard history to lead the team in scoring in all four years of his career. He was the 1987-88 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and earned First team All-Ivy in 1989-90 and 1990-91, Second Team in 1988-89 and Honorable Mention in 1987-88. He set a single-game scoring record in 1990 with 41 points against Penn and remains tied for first on the list of single game scoring leaders. He led the league in scoring in 1990 with 22.6 points per game. Hampered by a shoulder injury in his senior year Ralph still averaged 16 ppg and finished as Harvard third all-time leading scorer with 1,465 points. He remains fifth on that list and seventh on Harvard’s single season scoring leaders list with 486 points in 1989-90.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
It is truly an honor and a privilege to be recognized this evening and inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame. I extend my sincerest gratitude to Harvard and the Hall of Fame selection committee. It is truly a privilege to share this evening with so many accomplished and fellow inductees. Though I appreciate this accolade with sincerest humility, I feel I hold this award in trust only because there are so many individuals who have positively influenced my life and made this evening possible for me.
First and foremost I give thanks to God and my Lord Jesus Christ for all the wonderful blessings He has bestowed upon my life. Beyond a measure of talent, He has graciously given me a wonderful family who has loved and supported me throughout my life. It was once said that, “Ability is of no account without opportunity.” As a youngster my parents afforded me and my younger sister Brittany every opportunity a person could imagine. I am thankful for the best friend I have in my beautiful sibling, Brittany. She has been a source of encouragement and comradeship throughout the years, and I am very thankful for her in my life.
I recount the many weekend academic programs for the gifted, basketball camps, track meets, pee wee football games, soccer games, baseball games, high school basketball games, and citywide summer league basketball games that my parents shuttled us to and attended. Even if my summer league tournament was in California or Arizona you could find my father in the stands. Affectionately known by many as the “cameraman,” my father documented almost all of my sporting events. My parents and grandmother also drove from Long Island, New York to attend every one of my Harvard home basketball games. At times I think my teammates and coaches were more interested in my mother’s individual meals that she prepared for everyone than whatever I could potentially contribute to our efforts on the basketball court! For my parents’ unwavering and tireless support I am deeply indebted and grateful. I am certain I would not be the individual I am today were it not for their many sacrifices, love and support.
As a youngster they always exhorted me to act respectfully and honor my elders, but it is not necessarily in our make up as people nor do we necessarily have the will to do so but for the examples that surround us daily. So I am not only thankful for my parents’ example of character, selflessness, humility and hard work, but I am also thankful for my many other family members, friends and mentors whose examples I strove to emulate.
And so I give a special thanks to my grandmother who God has kept some ninety six years to see this evening! In large part I am the result of her unflappable faith in God, countless prayers, genuine caring, innumerable advices, and abundant wisdom. I am forever grateful for you Nana!
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of introducing my legendary high school basketball coach, Mr. Jack Curran, during his induction into Archbishop Molloy High School’s Hall of Fame at the New York Athletic Club. Arguably one of the greatest basketball minds of all time, Mr. Curran has amassed more basketball wins than any other coach in New York State history and more combined baseball and basketball wins than any high school coach in history. But beyond his on court instruction and numerous accomplishments, it is Coach Curran the person and friend I cherish most. I am thankful for his example of humility, selflessness, hard work, dedication and drive. It has served to sustain and motivate me during my years at Harvard and beyond.
When I reflect back upon my experience as a Harvard student athlete, my memories are numerous but always seem to point to the very first day I stepped foot on campus. During my collegiate recruiting process several top tier basketball schools courted me. I remember vividly the spectacular campuses and events I attended. And I remember distinctly recalling these events to my parents and Mr. Curran.
Though equally rich in academic, architectural, and athletic tradition as any other University, my conversation about my Harvard recruiting trip was extremely different. I talked with my parents instead about the wonderful people I met. I remember meeting my future teammates and friends Malcolm Hollensteiner and Scott Gilly and the lasting impression they made upon me. They did not offer idle promises, but instead extended genuine fellowship. As I intimated at our Harvard letterman’s dinner after graduation, Coach Roby’s visit to my family’s home left no doubt where I would matriculate to college. Beyond his and his staff’s instruction on the court, Coach was a friend, confidant, and father figure away from home. And for this I am very thankful.
Though I cherish the memories of many on court highlights, inevitably these accomplishments will fade in time. The lessons of fellowship, unity, selflessness and perseverance that I learned as a Harvard student athlete, however, will last far beyond my days. Hopefully these values will be passed on to my future children and many generations to come.
I have been the beneficiary of so many role models and innumerable kindnesses from family, friends and teammates alike. The knowledge of what our basketball team at Harvard could accomplish with unity and perseverance is clearly applicable in my daily endeavors. The lifelong friendships that were forged as a Harvard basketball player and the present and sustaining hope in continued fellowship and exchanged kindnesses helps me tackle daily tasks. Most importantly, my experience as a Harvard student athlete encourages me in what is possible with self sacrifice as I strive to give out what has so freely been given to me. As a result, hopefully my life will positively impact someone in much the same way that I have been blessed by many of the individuals sharing in this evening’s dinner and induction ceremony.