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Jerry Ray Lucas (born March 30, 1940) was a basketball player from the 1950s to the 1970s, and is now a memory education expert. In 1996, the NBA's 50th anniversary, he was named one of the 50 greatest players in National Basketball Association history. He was named to Sports Illustrated s five-man College All-Century Team in 1999.

Lucas was born in Middletown, Ohiomarker, a community of 50,000+ halfway between Daytonmarker and Cincinnatimarker, that in the 1940s and 1950s boasted one of the most respected high school basketball programs in the United States. From his earliest years, he was known for his remarkable memory and intelligence, which he used to great advantage in his basketball career. Lucas was already a local playground legend by age 15, as he was already at almost his full-grown height of 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m). He was developing shooting accuracy as far out as 30 feet, and had trained his leaping ability and timing to become an amazing rebounder. Lucas was gifted with great hands, which he could use to dazzle onlookers with an array of magic card tricks, as well as with 20-10 eyesight. Jerry Lucas is 1 of 3 players to win a basketball championship at all levels (High School, College, Olympics, and Professional). The other 2 players are Quinn Buckner and Magic Johnson.

High school

In 1956 and 1957, Lucas led Middletown High School to undefeated seasons and back-to-back Ohiomarker state high school championships. With his advanced gameplay, Lucas broke nearly every existing Ohio high school record during these two seasons, and became arguably the first high school basketball player to be known coast-to-coast at a time when television was in its infancy. Crowds of as many as 10,000 were common for high-school games in which he played. Lucas' games often outdrew local colleges and even the NBA's Cincinnati Royals, who drafted him as a high schooler.

Lucas strained somewhat under the media glare, and his minutes in blowout games were usually limited. Lucas usually scored over a point per minute, and his best statistical performances were in closer games against better teams because he was allowed to play more. Shying away from the limelight, Lucas decided to pass more so that his scoring would not make him appear selfish; it would become his standard for the rest of his playing career. Even while passing up shots, Lucas broke Wilt Chamberlain's national high school scoring record as a senior by making more than 60% of his shot attempts and 85% of his free throws, another standard for his career.

Coaches and scouts often traveled hundreds of miles to see Lucas play, swelling Middletown's Wade E. Miller gym to nearly three times its usual attendance. Lucas was so popular that a radio network was set up to broadcast his games across Ohio, drawing more listeners than several local Division I colleges. Lucas is generally considered to be among the 5-10 greatest high school basketball players of all time. Lucas' team suffered its only loss in the 1958 state semi-finals. At one point, Lucas's Middletown team had won 76 consecutive games, including two Ohio state high school championships.

Lucas was rated Ohio's top high school player all three varsity years 1956-1958. Lucas was the first player to be named three time First Team All-Ohio by the Associated Press.

On February 17, 2009 Jerry's number 13 was retired at Wade E. Miller gymnasium.

Ohio State University

Offered more than 150 athletic scholarships, it appeared Lucas might choose Adolph Rupp's legendary Kentuckymarker program, but he instead chose more-local Ohio Statemarker — which was not well-known for basketball at the time. Lucas insisted on an academic scholarship also, as he was nearly a straight-A student and already known for his intelligence and memory. Legend has it the impressive Lucas persuaded John Havlicek and Bob Knight to follow him to Ohio State. Mel Nowell had already stated he would follow Lucas. Freshman coach Fred Taylor was promoted to varsity after successfully recruiting Lucas.

Even as a freshman, Lucas drew huge crowds for freshman and junior varsity games, which often overshadowed the varsity. Despite his talent, rules stated then that freshman had to wait one year for varsity play.

When the three star recruits --- Nowell, Havlicek and Lucas --- became sophomores in 1959 , they teamed with junior Larry Siegfried and senior Joe Roberts to run all the way to the national championship. The three, led by Lucas, would form a basketball juggernaut that would go 78-6 over three NCAA seasons. Lucas was the team's clear star, leading the nation in shooting accuracy all three years, and twice in rebounding. He led Ohio State to three straight NCAA Finals. (Future coaching legend Knight was a reserve player.) They were national champions in 1960, and had just one loss in 1961.

The 6-9, 240-pound (2.06 m, 109 kg) Lucas was All-American all three years, Big Ten Player of the Year all three years, and was named ahead of all college and pro athletes to be Sports Illustrated "Sportsman of the Year" in 1961. He was generally considered the greatest college player ever upon graduation, and remains today the only player ever to record 30 points and 30 rebounds in the same NCAA Tournament game.

Off-court, Lucas struggled with his remarkable fame. After his sophomore year and the Olympics, he married and moved off-campus to avoid the considerable media attention.

The Buckeyes went undefeated all three years on their home floor, St. John Arena, 1960-62, during the varsity years of Lucas, Havlicek and Nowell. All five starters from the 1960 champions (Lucas, Havlicek, Nowell, Siegfried and Joe Roberts) were drafted to play in the NBA, then with just nine teams and eleven players per team. Lucas and Havlicek have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Famemarker as players, and Taylor and Knight have been inducted as coaches. Lucas's #11 became the second uniform number to be retired by Ohio State University, ahead of many of the school's football legends. He is the only player to be Big Ten MVP three times, and is considered by most experts to be the best basketball player to ever play in the conference.

Year GP Points Shoot% FT% Rebounds
1960 27 710 .637 .770. 442
1961 27 671 .623 .764 476
1962 28 669 .611 .799 499
Total 82 2050 .624 .777 1417

1960 Olympics

In 1960, Lucas was also named to the U.S. Olympic team for the Rome Games that year. The team, which also listed Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Walt Bellamy, and Terry Dischinger among its members, is generally considered the greatest amateur team of all time. The team's youngest player at age 20, Lucas was its leader and star at center. The U.S. team roared through the international tournament to easily win the gold medal. Lucas was the team's co-leading scorer and leading rebounder. He made a shocking 84% of his shots in nine Olympic games, which included a much-watched win over the Soviet Unionmarker.Lucas also was noteworthy as he had memorized paragraphs of Japanese, Italian and Russian, and would briefly converse with players speaking those languages during the Games. U.S. coach Pete Newell called Lucas "the greatest player I ever coached."

Professional basketball

Cleveland Pipers

" I never had any special desire to be a professional basketball player ", Lucas later said about his pro career. Yet his visibility was so high, he announced his decision to join the Cleveland Pipers of the ABL in May, 1962.He had spurned the NBA Cincinnati Royals because he wanted to play fewer games, wanted stock options as part of his pay, and wanted to delay playing to complete his doctorate in Business Marketing.Abe Saperstein and young Cleveland owner George Steinbrenner listened and signed the young star. Lucas agreed to a combination player-management contract that listed him as an owner of the team before he had ever played a pro game.The NBA, which desperately wanted Lucas because of his remarkable popularity, asked Steinbrenner to move his Pipers to the NBA. Steinbrenner agreed. For several months, the Cleveland Pipers were set to take aplace in the NBA's Eastern Division. Saperstein then threatened suit, while the NBA then heaped a pile of entry fees upon Steinbrenner. In August, 1962, the deal collapsed, and Steinbrenner was forced to fold the team and declare bankruptcy.After Cleveland, the defending ABL champion, folded, the entire ABL soon after followed suit. It was an unprecedented chain of events for a rookie pro basketball player that really has not been since matched.


Cincinnati Royals

In May, 1963 Lucas signed with Warren Hensel, then in process of becoming owner of the NBA's Cincinnati Royals. Despite his episode with the rival ABL, which had cost him a year of pro ball, Lucas, the local high school legend and Ohio Statemarker star remained immensely popular. Lucas had actually been drafted by the NBA team as a 18-year-old high schooler following a Middletown-Hamilton high school game that had been played at Cincinnati Gardensmarker in January, 1958. The crowd that night surpassed any for the NBA Royals for the 1957-58 season.

The 1963-64 Royals also included three NBA All-Stars in Oscar Robertson, Wayne Embry and Jack Twyman. With Lucas now added, Cincinnati was quickly named favorites to dethrone the Boston Celtics as NBA champions in Luke's rookie season. The team very nearly met that expectation. Moving to forward as a pro, while also playing backup to Embry at center, Lucas focused on rebounding to fit in on the team, which already had proven scorers. He would post several 30-rebound games that season and one of 40 in February, the only one ever for a NBA forward. Cincinnati won 55 of its 80 NBA games that year, then a remarkably-high number. The team won twelve in a row at one point, and came within 2 1/2 games of the Boston Celtics for the Eastern Division lead. With Lucas added, the Royals won the season series over Boston, 7-5, and the two teams were in a pennant race all the way to the end of the season. Boston and Cincinnati emerged with easily the two best records in the league by season's end.

Lucas's remarkable popularity that first NBA season had improved attendance all over the NBA, and set records in Cincinnati. His focus on rebounding has resulted in the league's best shooting percentage as well as the NBA's third-best total of rebounds as well. He was named Rookie of the Year for the 1963-64 NBA season.

In the playoffs, a Boston-Cincinnati series was highly anticipated. While Boston rested, Cincinnati defeated Philadelphia in the opening round. But Lucas was clearly injured in the series. When rested Boston met the Royals in the second round, Lucas tried to play, but was clearly below form. The team sank, losing the series 4-1.

For the following season, hopes were again high for the Royals. But the team lost key starter Bucky Bockhorn for the season after just 19 games. Lucas improved and tried to help shoulder the load for Cincinnati. He averaged 21 points, 20 rebounds, 50% shooting, 81% of his free throws and 44 minutes per game. The Royals declined slightly in the win column, but Lucas was named First Team All-NBA. He had also been named MVP of the 1965 NBA All-Star Game following a 25-point, ten rebound performance. In the playoffs, he averaged 23 points, 21 rebounds and 49 minutes per game for Cincinnati, but no avail.

For the 1965-66 season, Cincinnati gave their best effort ever, posting the NBA's best overall record as late as February 1 ahead of Boston with their slew of stars, and Philadelphia, which had added Wilt Chamberlain. Lucas again averaged a ' 20-20 ' for the season, and was again named All-NBA First Team. They met Boston again the playoffs, and had the Celtics one game from elimination. Lucas again played through injuries, but the team failed to finish the job.

Following that season, three key Royals retired, or moved onto other teams. Cincinnati declined in wins. Meanwhile, Lucas fan Art Modell, president of the National Football League's Cleveland Browns, was eager to have the team play games at Cleveland Arenamarker. From 1966 to 1969, the Royals moved 8-10 of their home games each season to Cleveland, where Royals president Louis Jacobs had one of his many concessions contracts. Lucas continued to star at an All-Pro level and attract fans, but the team was no longer a serious contender.

With the team in decline, Lucas began to focus more on off-court business opportunities. He became involved in a number of deals, even starting his own fast food chain, Jerry Lucas Beef-N-Shakes. He was a talented magician who knew a great list of card tricks, which he published. He also created educational puzzles and games for children. By 1969, he was one of just three millionaires playing in the NBA. He had made most of his money in investments.

First Team All-NBA again in 1967-68, Lucas out-rebounded Boston's legendary Bill Russell for the season. He also averaged a staggering 46 minutes per game playing at two positions. Despite that, Royals fans felt he was a distracted player who was more focused off-court on business. His popularity now declined sharply in Cincinnati.

San Francisco

In the summer of 1969, Cincinnati brought in new management, and a new coach in Bob Cousy. Cousy felt the three-time First Team All-Pro did not hustle enough, and traded Ohio's most famous player ever to that point to the San Francisco Warriors for two reserves. One of those reserves, Bill Turner, later joined him in San Francisco.Lucas was injured and distracted during the 1969-70 season with the Warriors. Banks had cancelled the line of credit on his restaurants. He had to declare bankruptcy, taking investors down with him.

Re-focused on basketball for 1970-71, Luke returned to All-Pro form and was named the starting power forward for the West All-Star team in the 1971 NBA All-Star Game. Teaming with Nate Thurmond, Clyde Lee, Jeff Mullins and Ron Williams, the Warriors also returned to playoffs.

New York

By this point, Lucas rated as one of the most accurate shooters and top rebounders in league history. He had plenty of individual honors as well. What he sought was a championship opportunity. The Warriors, needing a small scoring forward like Cazzie Russell, dealt Lucas to the New York Knickerbockers, who needed a big man who would work behind both Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere. Lucas had long rated ahead of both as an NBA player, but easily agreed as New York was a serious championship contender.

Early in the 1971-72 season, the injury-prone Reed went down for the season. Lucas, not a starting center since college, was pressed into service. Lucas bedeviled opposing teams with outside shooting and deft passing. Opposing teams had to change their defenses to deal with him. In perhaps his most remarkable season, Lucas led the Knicks in rebounds and shooting accuracy, and was second in scoring and assists only to Walt Frazier on the club. He was named the team's 1972 Most Valuable Player. Deferring to teammates for All-Star honors, Lucas helped the team past Boston in the playoffs, and into the 1972 NBA Finals. Injuries were a big factor in that series, with Lucas out-scoring and out-passing huge opposing center Wilt Chamberlain. The Knicks lost in five games.

In 1972-73, Willis Reed had returned. But Lucas played more minutes than Reed at center that season, helping New York save him for the playoffs. Focusing more on passing at center, Luke averaged five assists per game. His role was crucial for New York's 1973 NBA championship. Lucas had become the first American basketball player to win championships at every level --- high school, college, Olympics, and the pros.

Lucas also became a media darling in New Yorkmarker, where he found a large market for his magic tricks, memory games, and other products. He amazed many by memorizing portions of the Manhattanmarker Phone Book or memorizing the names of an entire studio audience in sequence during television appearances. He also had a knack for taking words apart and then respelling them alphabetically in rapidfire order ( his name would spell E-J-R-R-Y A-C-L-S-U ). Lucas showed many how mental games and memory exercises could build brain power and intelligence for people at any age.

In 1974, the Knicks made a run to repeat as NBA champs, but the team known for its collective intelligence and unselfishness, like Lucas himself , was eliminated in the East Finals. Lucas, Reed and DeBusschere, all Hall Of Famers, retired as players after that season. New York has not won a NBA title since.

At retirement, Lucas ranked fourth all-time in rebounds per game to Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Bob Pettit. Had there been a three-point line, Lucas, who had the league's longest accurate shot during his day, might have been a much bigger scorer.

A star at two positions, forward and center, Lucas is still recalled today as one of the greatest ever in NBA history.He was named to the Basketball Hall Of Famemarker in 1980, and was later named one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players in 1996. He was also later named to Sports Illustrated 's five-man college Team Of The Century in 1999.


Lucas was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Famemarker in 1980 along with Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.

After basketball, Lucas took up a role as an educator and memory expert and has written books and produced television programs on the subject. Two of his best sellers are The Memory Book, co-written with Harry Lorayne, and Remember the Word, for memorizing portions of the Bible. His educational programs on image-based memory development are now being used in some Ohio school systems.

Lucas serves as a long-distance Director of Basketball Operations for Indiana Wesleyan University, according to their 2006-2007 media guide, and helps in the nationwide recruiting effort for the Wildcats.[39904]. Lucas is active today as a public speaker and in celebrity golf tournaments.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Jerry Lucas Summary, accessed July 30, 2007.
  2. 50 Greatest Players in NBA History

External links

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