Jerry Lucas: Wikis


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Jerry Lucas
Position(s) Forward/Center
Jersey #(s) 16, 32, 47
Listed height 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Listed weight 230 lb (100 kg)
Born March 30, 1940 (1940-03-30) (age 69)
Middletown, Ohio
Career information
Year(s) 1963–1974
NBA Draft 1962 / Round: n/a / Pick: territorial

Selected by Cincinnati Royals

College Ohio State
Professional team(s)
Career stats (NBA)
Points     14,053
Rebounds     12,942
Assists     2,732
Stats @
Career highlights and awards
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
Medal record
Competitor for  United States
Men's Basketball
Olympic Games
Gold 1960 Rome Team Competition

Jerry Ray Lucas (born March 30, 1940) was a basketball player from the 1950s to the 1970s, and is now a memory education expert.[1] In 1996, the NBA's 50th anniversary, he was named one of the 50 greatest players in National Basketball Association history.[2] He was named to Sports Illustrated's five-man College All-Century Team in 1999.

Lucas was born in Middletown, Ohio, then a community of 30,000+ halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati, that in the 1940s and 1950s boasted one of the most respected high school basketball programs in the United States. Greatly encouraged, Lucas began pouring hours each day into the town's game during his early teens.

Lucas had become a local playground legend by age 15, in Sunset Park. Sunset Park was then a regional summer hotbed for high school, college and even some pro players. Future Cincinnati Royals teammates Wayne Embry and Oscar Robertson were visitors there. Lucas was already at almost his full-grown height of 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)by age 15, out-playing college players with his advanced game.

With no real model to look up to for his game, Lucas simply utilized his rare 20-10 eye sight and remarkable hands to train his shooting and rebounding to remarkable degrees. He created his own drills, showing a gift for inventing games he would utilize later as well.


High school

In 1956 and 1957, Lucas led Middletown High School to undefeated seasons and back-to-back Ohio state high school championships.[3] Lucas, at first, rarely needed the ball to help his team. He simply focused on offensive rebounds for scoring. By putting back so many misses, Lucas padded scoring and shooting accuracy marks while letting upper-classmen shoot and pass. Meanwhile, this amazing rebounding also often held opponents to one shot at the other end.

As competition increased, Lucas became more important to the team's base offense. He learned to help his own game and the team by developing an advanced pivot passing game. Meanwhile, his hook shot became nearly automatic and his shooting eye was strong well past 20', then unusual for a center. His star was born in the 1956 state quarterfinals. Lucas, still weeks from his 16th birthday, burned Cleveland East Technical for 53 points before a crowd of 5,000. He added 44 in the state final for a two game total of 97, still an Ohio high school record.

During his junior and senior seasons, Lucas and Middletown soared to remarkable levels in fame and attention. In a time with no television or internet, Lucas was written about by the New York Times as early as 1957. Game crowds of 10,000 were not uncommon for him in an era where the NBA typically drew 3500. At this time, the first national prep All-American teams were being named, and Lucas was soon considered among the best high schoolers in the country.

An academic ace as well, whose mnemonic skills made him an A+ student, Lucas cut quite the image of the handsome young star student-athlete. Middletown ran their winning streak to an impressive 79 straight during his senior year. By this point, Middletown home games were jammed well past capacity, with hundreds more listening in their cars in the school parking lot. Coaches and scouts now traveled long distances to see Lucas. No Ohio high schooler would approach his level of fame until LeBron James nearly 40 years later.

By 1958 Lucas had drawn crowds of 10,000 to the Cleveland Arena and St. John's Arena in Columbus. That same year, the rivalry Middletown-Hamilton high school game was moved to Cincinnati Gardens. When Cincinnati Royals owner saw Lucas thrill a crowd of 12,000 with a 49-point 34-rebound performance, he later made the 18 year old a territorial draft pick of the NBA team.

Statistically, Lucas averaged more than a point per minute for the 32-minute games. With numbers not well-kept, his rebounding figures are unknown, by were likely about 17 per game. We do know he did hit a then very high 60% of his field goal attempts and over 80% of his free throws. Increasingly a passer, he may have also averaged 5–6 assists per game. Decades later, some still consider him the single greatest high school player of all-time.

Wearing #13 as a senior, Lucas made news by surpassing Wilt Chamberlain's high school scoring mark. College scouts now came around in remarkable numbers. Before Lew Alcindor in the mid-1960s, the only high schooler to earn more scholarship offers than Lucas was Chamberlain. Kentucky coaching legend Adolph Rupp may have watched Lucas more than any player he ever recruited. The 17-year-old raised eyebrows when he told the coach to go home after one of his rare visits to recruit a player in 1958.

Lucas' Middletown team suffered its only loss in three years at the 1958 Ohio state finals. Losing by one point to an undefeated opponent shocked Middletown to such a degree that the school never honored its departing senior star with a ceremony, until 50 years later when the oversight was discovered. 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 and on February 17, 2009 Jerry's number 13 was retired at Wade E. Miller gymnasium.

Ohio State University

Offered more than 150 athletic scholarships, Lucas certainly had his pick, when Ohio State sent then-freshman coach Fred Taylor to meet him. The two had a good meeting while fishing, and Lucas chose the Buckeyes. When he told some all-star teammates of his the decision, it's said that Mel Nowell, Bobby Knight and John Havlicek all decided on Ohio State also. Lucas led perhaps the greatest college recruiting class of all-time. After landing Lucas, Taylor was promoted to varsity coach also. Lucas raised some eyebrows by insisting on an academic scholarship. Highly intelligent, Lucas made education a priority over basketball. With the NBA in its financial infancy at this time, he had no thoughts about pro ball. In 1958-59, the freshmen met the junior varsity several times before Buckeye varsity home games. Lucas and the freshmen drew 10,000 fans to these games. These fans then largely left before the varsity game, sometimes even including football coach Woody Hayes. In two games against the varsity, Lucas scored a total of 98 and pulled down over 40 rebounds. 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. Lucas led the way averaging 27 points, 17 rebounds, 60% shooting and perhaps five or six assists per game. It was a good balanced team, but one that ran well because Lucas was not a selfish star. All five starters scored in double-figures. Lucas rated behind only University of Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson as NCAA Player Of The Year, and that point was debated.

The 1960-61 team went into the NCAA Finals undefeated before losing to Cincinnati in an upset in overtime. Lucas had played well for OSU, but other Buckeyes had off games. A shocked Lucas then briefly left school and toured the Soviet Union with an AAU team coached by John McClendon. The 1961-62 team made it to the NCAA Finals also, a remarkable three straight for Lucas. Seeing the final against Cincinnati as his last game ever, Lucas surprised many by trying to play on a badly-injured knee, likely costing his team a chance at a title. It put a bad ending on a rare college career. Lucas was named Player Of The Year in both 1961 and 1962. He was Big Ten Player Of The Year all three years, had led the nation in shooting accuracy as a 20-point scorer all three years, and had led the nation in rebounding twice. More importantly, his team was a winner. The Buckeyes went 78-6 over three years. He was commonly rated the greatest collegian ever upon graduation. A stellar student, Lucas also had his bachelors degree in three years, and had spent his senior year in post-graduate studies.

His overall record of three high school finals, then three NCAA Finals was a total amateur record that perhaps has no match in basketball history. To that, he also added an Olympic gold medal in Rome in 1960.

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 to this day.

1960 Olympics

In 1960, Lucas was also named to the U.S. Olympic team for the Rome Games that year. Exhausted from the NCAAs, he had a mediocre Trials, but easily outrebounded everyone there by a clear margin. Indiana center rival Walt Bellamy was rated the starter at first, but Lucas later shined as a passer and made the team click. Fellow Hall Of Famers include Coach Pete Newell, Bellamy, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West. Four more teammates would have NBA careers as well. Four of them with be Lucas pro teammates at some point in Cincinnati.

The team had perhaps four challenging games in the Olympic tournament, two against Italy, one versus the Soviets and one with Brazil. The others were cakewalks, with the USA far ahead of the world at this point. The lowlight may have been Lucas vs. Japan, guarded by a 6'3 opponent. Lucas figured strongly in every key win. He earned just six free throws from referees during the physical tournament, but tied Robertson, who had 52 free throw tries, for the team scoring lead at 17.0 per game. Once again, his unselfishness as a star allowed others to contribute.

Lucas also was noteworthy as he had taken the time to memorize paragraphs of Japanese, Italian and Russian to converse with opposing athletes.

The co-top scorer, top rebounder and shooter, Lucas had quietly been the star of this legendary squad. 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. But pro basketball clearly wanted him like few ever. Lucas turned down the Royals to pursue his doctorate in business marketing. But ABL Cleveland Pipers owner George Steinbrenner interested the young star with a contract unlike any in sports. The ABL, formed in 1961, played fewer games. They would even delay the start of the season for Lucas to finish his semester. Along with more pay, he also got stock options. Lucas was part of the team ownership before ever playing a pro game. The ABL signing of Lucas shocked the NBA. Soon, commissioner Maury Podoloff had talked Steinbrenner's Pipers into jumping to the NBA. ABL head Abe Saperstein sued. Then the NBA piled entry fees on Steinbrenner. The whole deal collapsed in August, 1962 and soon the whole ABL went down as well. Lucas, contracted to Steinbrenner in business deals, would miss the 1962-63 NBA season. It was an episode unlike any in the game's history.


Cincinnati Royals

The Cleveland ABL fiasco had surprised many. But Lucas was ready to make amends and play pro ball. Also his sore knees had healed in the year away from the game. In May, 1963 Lucas signed with Warren Hensel, then in process of becoming owner of the NBA's Cincinnati Royals. The local Middletown star and Ohio legend quickly again became a sensation. Lucas was still so popular, that he would boost league attendance that season. He was even a factor, as a needed white star, in the league's new television contract. Lucas would easily be one of the NBA's most popular players throughout the 1960s.

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. This, to some, would be another extension of his amateur success. Hopes were very high for Lucas his 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 also won the season series over Boston, 7-5. Boston and Cincinnati emerged with easily the two best records in the league by season's end. He was easily named the NBA's Rookie Of The Year. Some experts even named Lucas, not Robertson, as the team's key player.

The famed Lucas was a target that season, however. The third-place Philadelphia 76ers played him very physically, often drawing his ire. In the playoffs, a 76ers player plowed into his lower back and injured him for the rest of the playoffs. The highly anticpated Boston-Cincinnati playoff became anti-climactic as a result. Still Lucas played hurt and never quit. When his back improved, they won Game Four to avoid a sweep. In Game Five, Boston's K.C. Jones undercut him while Lucas pursued a rebound, sending Lucas to the floor for a concussion. Lucas never returned to the game and Boston won the series. His string of Finals appearances was now over.

1964-1969, the Royals never contended again quite as closely, but Lucas was clearly one of the league's biggest stars. Lucas became known for what was then called ' the 20-20 '. That's a game or a full season of twenty points and twenty rebounds. Only Wilt Chamberlain had also consistently averaged 20-20. In an era of high tempo and increased shot attempts, Lucas had plenty of chances for his focus on rebounding. During those six years, only Chamberlain and Boston's Bill Russell out-rebounded Lucas. In 1967-68, Lucas out-rebounded Russell. Not the leaper or bull some others were, Lucas outsmarted other players to the ball, over and over again. From 1964-1968, Lucas averaged 19.8 rebounds per game.

He was also a deadly shooter. He was almost always among the league leaders in field goal percentage. More than just a tip-in guy, Lucas the forward took half his shots from 15 feet or more and still out-shot most dunkers. He shot 50% for his pro career.

His impressive passing, seen more in time at his natural center spot as a reserve, rounded out the package. Lucas was named the 1965 NBA All-Star Game MVP, and was named First Team All-NBA in 1965, 1966 and 1968. Three times he averaged more than 20 points per game for a season, while deferring to 30-point scorer Robertson.

Lucas was also known for amazing minutes played. Only Chamberlain consistently played more minutes than Lucas, who often logged 46 minutes per game, season after season. This despite bad knees that often required daily attention.

Starting in 1964, Lucas drew the interest of NFL Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell. Lucas was still very popular in Cleveland, and Modell wanted a NBA franchise for the city. So, from 1966-1969, the Royals played 36 home games in Cleveland, boosting their overall attendance. Modell, Lucas and the Royals were factors in the Cleveland Cavaliers expansion franchise.

With the Royals in steady 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 hundreds of card tricks, which he later 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 off-court in investments.

Lucas appeared less and less involved with the team despite his strong numbers and play. His once-amazing popularity now declined sharply.

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. While some doubted, Lucas rose to the occasion in impressive fashion. 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 York, where he found a large market for his magic tricks, memory games, and other products. He amazed many by memorizing portions of the Manhattan 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 Fame 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 Fame 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. [1]. Lucas is active today as a public speaker and in celebrity golf tournaments.

See also

Notes and references

External links

Preceded by
Jerry West
NCAA Basketball Tournament
Most Outstanding Player

Succeeded by
Paul Hogue
Preceded by
Johnny Green
Big Ten Basketball MVP
Succeeded by
Gary Bradds
Preceded by
Terry Dischinger
NBA Rookie of the Year
Succeeded by
Willis Reed
Preceded by
Oscar Robertson
NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player
Succeeded by
Adrian Smith

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