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Lucas in 1961
March 30, 1940|
|Listed height||6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)|
|Listed weight||230 lb (104 kg)|
|High school||Middletown (Middletown, Ohio)|
|College||Ohio State (1959–1962)|
|NBA draft||1962 / Pick: Territorial|
|Selected by the Cincinnati Royals|
|Position||Power forward / Center|
|Number||16, 47, 32|
|1969–1971||San Francisco Warriors|
|1971–1974||New York Knicks|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||14,053 (17.0 ppg)|
|Rebounds||12,942 (15.6 rpg)|
|Assists||2,732 (3.3 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
College Basketball Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 2006
Jerry Ray Lucas (born March 30, 1940) is an American former basketball player and memory education expert. He was a nationally-awarded high school player, national college star at Ohio State, and 1960 gold medal Olympian and international player before starring as a professional player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). As a collegian, Lucas led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the 1960 college national championship and three straight NCAA finals. He remains today the only three-time Big Ten Player of the Year, and was also twice named NCAA Player of the Year. As a professional, Lucas was named All-NBA First Team three times, an NBA All-Star seven times, was 1964 NBA Rookie of the Year, and was named Most Valuable Player of the 1965 NBA All-Star Game among other honors and awards. He was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980.
After his basketball career ended in the mid-1970s, Lucas took to becoming a teacher and writer in the area of image-based memory education. His book written with Harry Lorayne, The Memory Book, was a national best-seller. Lucas has also conducted seminars demonstrating memory techniques, and has written 30 books and educational products and games for children.
Lucas was born in Middletown, Ohio, then a community of 30,000+ halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati. Middletown then called itself " The Basketball Capital of Ohio", based on the success of the basketball teams from the town's one high school. The Middies had already won five Ohio state high school championships, 1945–55, before Lucas played at Middletown High. Local support for the team was remarkably high in the early and mid-1950s. A tall youth hailing from a family of tall men, Lucas was greatly encouraged to take up the game at a young age, perhaps age 12. He was already six-feet tall by age 13. Lucas had also begun to demonstrate an active mind at a young age. A fidgety boy on family car rides, Lucas began to develop mental games to occupy him perhaps as early as age nine. " I saw a sign at a gas station, and decided to rearrange the letters of each word into alphabetical order ". The word 'price' would become 'c-e-i-p-r'. These and other mental exercises began to help develop his intelligence at a young age.
In addition to strong local support for Middletown High basketball, the city was also home to remarkable summer outdoor basketball scene at Sunset Park. Previous Middletown players who had gone on to play at the college level recruited other college players to play there in the summer. By the time Lucas was age 15, Sunset Park was one of the best summer basketball scenes in the region between Dayton and Cincinnati. By then, Lucas had grown to 6'7" and had the opportunity to scrimmage against college players, advancing his game greatly. Lucas was, in fact, outplaying good college big men before he had played his first game for Middletown High.
During this time, his eyesight was tested and found to be "at least 20-10", according to Lucas. His remarkable eye sight allowed him to practice shooting where the ball would graze one side of the basket's rim or another. A game of HORSE with Lucas then included shots where the ball only hits the front of the rim or another area rather than simply going in as a made shot. His eyesight also played into another part of the game, rebounding. Lucas observed shots, their arc and speed, and watched where missed shots caromed to and why. Being able to predict if shots would miss and where missed shots would go would eventually make Lucas one of the greatest rebounders in the history of the game. These things, his shooting drills and rebound watching, were the product of his active, inventive thinking at a young age, applied to the game of basketball.
Lucas started play at Middletown as a sophomore in the 1955–56 season. Then still just 15 years old, he became a star by making 60% of his shots, though others on the Middies took as many or more shots for the team. Most of the made shots were offensive rebounds, well-timed tip-ins of missed shots, and free throws. He became a statewide star in the 1956 state final four held in Cleveland. Lucas wore #13 at Middletown and was often compared to Wilt Chamberlain as a high school talent. The 1956 Middletown team went undefeated and was named co-national high school champion, along with Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, which were led by star Oscar Robertson. The 1956–57 team also went undefeated and won the Ohio state title, and were named national champions alone. By then, Lucas had set several all-time Ohio high school records for scoring and shooting accuracy. Records for rebounding then were not well-kept. Lucas entered his senior year as the top-rated high school player in the country. His teams had never lost a game, going back to junior high. In the 32-minute games of the era, Lucas averaged over a point per minute, despite often sitting out some minutes of play. When Middletown lost to an undefeated Columbus North team, 63-62, in the 1958 state playoffs, his high school career ended with Middletown having gone 76-1 during his years there. The 76-straight high school wins are still an Ohio high school record. Lucas was named Ohio state high school player of the year all three years. He was also named USBWA national high school player of the year twice. Only two other prep players, Lew Alcindor ( Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ) and LeBron James have won that award twice, all-time. Four games against Hamilton High were held at Cincinnati Gardens arena. Performances there made him a star in that city. The NBA Cincinnati Royals, relocated to the city in 1957, named Lucas a territorial draft pick after his senior year in 1958. Other five-digit crowds for high school games at Cleveland Public Hall and St. John's Arena helped turn Lucas into a rare degree of high-interest high school player during his Middletown years. He still remains today on nearly every short list of the greatest high school players ever to play in the United States. In 2000, Lucas was named Greater Cincinnati high school Player Of The Century by the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper.
Ohio State University
Lucas was the subject of considerable recruiting interest while at Middletown, to such a degree that measures were taken to protect the privacy of Lucas and his family. He received 160 college scholarships, some of them for both basketball and track. He had won the Ohio state discus title as a Middletown senior. Fred Taylor was not yet the varsity coach at Ohio State when he recruited Lucas. After Lucas agreed to a scholastic scholarship there, Taylor was promoted from freshman coach to varsity coach. When he announced for Ohio State, Lucas was on a tour of Ohio-Indiana high school all-stars games. Ohio all-star teammates from that tour would follow him to Ohio State, among them John Havlicek, Bob Knight and Mel Nowell.  Lucas had been an A-student and had made education his priority. The first person to see some of his learning and memory systems were Havlicek and Knight. When Buckeyes football coach Woody Hayes found what kind of student Lucas was, he asked the freshman to tutor varsity Buckeye players in their college subjects. Lucas was still the subject of considerable interest as a college freshman, in an era when freshmen were ineligible for varsity college play. Thousands would often pour into St. John Arena to see Lucas play in preliminaries. Lucas was named to some 1959–60 pre-season All-American teams before ever playing a game at Ohio State. Lucas, Nowell, then Havlicek all started for the 1959–60 team, which also included Larry Siegfried and Joe Roberts. Ohio State was the highest-scoring, best shooting team in the country that season. The Buckeyes averaged 90 points per game as a fast-break team. Lucas would rebound shots, and throw outlet passes to Ohio State players scoring at the other end. Lucas scored 26 points per game, averaged 16 rebounds per game and set a college record by making 63% of his shots. The Buckeyes overwhelmed California, 75-55, at the Cow Palace in San Francisco to win the 1960 NCAA title. All five starters from this team were later drafted into the NBA, which was then a small nine-team league. In 1960–61, Ohio State ran a winning streak of 32 games all the way to the NCAA Final. In one game against Kentucky, Lucas became the only college player to date to record a ' 30-30 ' in a NCAA tournament game ( 33 points, 30 rebounds ). For the final, the Buckeyes had to wait for the Consolation Game to conclude first. That game went to four overtimes. The championship game also went into overtime, with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats upsetting the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes by a score of 70-65. By the time the 1961–62 season had started, the 6' 8 230-pound Lucas had played basketball nearly non-stop for two years, 1959–60 season-1960 Olympics-1960–61 season-1961 AAU tour of the Soviet Union. So, health was an issue when he returned from Russia weighing just 200 pounds. His sore knees were also an issue throughout his basketball career. But Lucas and the Buckeyes again made it to the NCAA final, their third straight. Lucas was badly injured against Wake Forest in the semifinal. But he opted to play in the 1962 final anyway, believing it was his last game ever. During his college career, he had stated repeatedly that he would never turn pro. In his final college game, he moved poorly and Cincinnati again topped Ohio State. Lucas was All-American First Team all three years at Ohio State. His #11 was later the second number ever retired by the college in any sport. He is still widely considered the greatest player to ever play in the Big Ten today. The team went 78-6 during his years. Gaining strong national exposure during these years, Lucas was named 1961 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. He was the first to ever win the award in basketball. Lucas is still widely regarded today as one of the greatest college players of all-time. Lucas received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in three years, and was in post-graduate studies as a senior. His grades were A in all but a few classes. As an all-time college student-athlete, Lucas may still be one of the very best ever. Lucas was also a member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity.
In 1960, Lucas was also named to the U.S. Olympic team for the Rome Games that year. He had a mediocre trials, due to fatigue from the NCAA final and the high altitude of the Trials in Denver. But Lucas easily led all Trials players in rebounding. Initially named to the U.S. team as a reserve forward, Lucas asked Olympic coach Pete Newell to try him at his natural center spot. Despite the fact that two 6'11" centers, Walter Bellamy and Darrall Imhoff, were present, Lucas got time at center and emerged as the regular starter for the U.S. team. The Americans ranked well ahead of most other countries in 1960, and could have won by far more than the 40 points per game that they averaged. The biggest game was played against the Soviet Union in September at the palazetto dello sport in Rome, which the Americans won. Lucas scored 25 points in the gold medal final against Brazil to tie teammate Oscar Robertson for the team lead in scoring, 136 points apiece for the Olympics over eight games. Despite the physical play near the basket during those Games, Lucas received just six free throws total over all eight games, but shot 80% from the floor to be a top scorer. Afterward, Coach Newell, whose California team had just lost to Ohio State and Lucas in the 1960 NCAA final, called Lucas " the greatest player I ever coached, and the most unselfish ". The U.S. team also included future pro stars Robertson, Bellamy, Imhoff, Jerry West, Terry Dischinger, Adrian Smith and Bob Boozer.
Lucas's international play also includes being named to a team of AAU ( Amateur Athletic Union )stars that toured the Soviet Union in mid-1961. That team played games in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, with Lucas starring at center, and went undefeated. The coach of the team was John McLendon. That team was one of the first to play basketball in the Soviet Union. In 1964, he also was part of a team of NBA players that played behind the Iron Curtain. Poland, Rumania and Yugoslavia were included in that tour. He netted 36 points against Poland, the high game for all players on that tour. So, in addition to his Olympic performance in Rome, Lucas was an international player of some significance.
"I never had any special desire to be a professional basketball player", Lucas later said about his pro career. In 1962, Lucas, long a territorial draft selection of the NBA Cincinnati Royals, turned down their latest offer. The deal would have made him the second-highest paid player on the Royals after Oscar Robertson. He was still in post-graduate studies at Ohio State at this time. But he was also drafted by a pro team in another league. George Steinbrenner, then the owner of the newly formed American Basketball League's Cleveland Pipers, interested the young star with a combination managerial-player contract unlike any in sports. Lucas, in fact, received ownership stock in the team as part of the deal. The NBA then made overtures to have the ABL Cleveland team, with Lucas, jump leagues that Summer. When that deal was approved by Steinbrenner, the NBA Royals protested and admission fees were added to the Cleveland deal. Unable to make all the considerable payments, Steinbrenner's team collapsed and folded. By then, Lucas had signed a business deal with Cleveland advertiser Howard Marks, and spoke often of having an NBA franchise for Cleveland. Because of this contract, he missed the 1962–63 NBA season. When the Marks expansion deal was denied by the NBA, Lucas was released from that contract. He decided he wanted to play pro basketball after all, and the Royals retained his rights.
In August, 1963, Lucas signed with Warren Hensel, who was then in process of becoming owner of the NBA's Cincinnati Royals. The locally-well known Middletown and Ohio State star quickly surged ticket sales for the team. The Royals had previously declined in ticket sales the last two seasons before his signing. The 1963–64 Royals also included three NBA All-Stars in Oscar Robertson, Wayne Embry and Jack Twyman. Lucas was moved to forward his first pro season, and initially struggled at that position to some degree. But he improved over the course of games played, and the Royals soon had the second-best record in the NBA that season. His role on the team would be chiefly rebounding and other support play. In 1963–64, Lucas recorded four 30-rebound games, including a 40-rebound game on February 29, 1964. Lucas is still today the only NBA forward with a 40-rebound game. He also led the league in field goal percentage as a rookie. In the 1964 NBA playoffs, Lucas was injured when a Philadelphia player collided with him from behind. He gamely tried to play through the injury, appearing in all ten playoff games. But the Royals and Lucas never recovered, losing to Boston in the Eastern final. In his second season, Lucas was asked to shoot and score more as the team's top ticket draw. In 1964–65 and 1965–66, he enjoyed his best seasons in Cincinnati, with the Royals posting the second or third-best record in the league each season. As one of the NBA's top shooters in accuracy, Lucas posted two seasons of over 21 points per game as the team's #2 scorer. He also averaged over 20 rebounds per game both seasons. In 1965–66, Lucas averaged 21.1 rebounds over 79 games, with 1668 rebounds total on the season. Those are both still all-time rebounding marks for NBA forwards. In addition to his scoring, rebounding and shooting, Lucas made a name for himself as a big minutes man. In a sport where a regulation NBA game is 48 minutes, Lucas routinely played 43–44 minutes per game at two positions, starting forward, then backup center. Knee pain was still a big concern, and after the 1965–66 season, he nearly retired. But he found a prescription anti-inflammatory that allowed him to continue as a player. In the 1964–65 playoffs, Lucas averaged 23.3 points, 21 rebounds and 48.8 minutes over four games against Philadelphia. Game One had gone to overtime, so he was able to average past 48 minutes for the series. In the 1965–66 playoffs, he averaged 21.4 points, 20.2 rebounds and 46.2 minutes over the best-of-five series. He had again been injured in the 1966 playoffs, undercut from behind by a teammate, but still toughed through big minutes of play. He was named Most Valuable Player of the 1965 NBA All-Star Game in St. Louis, having scored 26 points. In the 1966 All-Star Game held in Cincinnati, he collected a team-high 19 rebounds for the East. In the Fall of 1966, the Royals announced the move of nine or more home games to Cleveland, where the team hoped to use Lucas, the former would-be ABL Piper, as a popular crowd draw. He was recovering now as a heavier player who weighed 240-250 pounds, but still was a starting East All-Star. With the team declining now, and with his own health concerns, Lucas focused more on off-court business. As a cutting edge corporate athlete, he sought endorsements. He also studied investment opportunities and tax shelters. By 1968, Lucas was worth over a million dollars, most of it built on off-court investments. There were only two or three other millionaire players in the NBA at that time. His most famous investment was his growing fast food chain, Jerry Lucas Beef N Shakes. Lucas also created a number of children's games during this period, starting his own toys and games company. He published a book on the many magic card tricks he often performed himself. Healthier in 1967–68, he bounced back to post season averages of 21.5 points per game, 52% shooting, 19 rebounds, and 44.1 minutes over all 82 games. He was second in the league to Chamberlain in rebounds and minutes played. He had topped third-place Bill Russell of Boston by more than 100 rebounds on the season as just the second player ever to out-rebound Russell over a full season. He was First Team All-NBA again, but the Royals missed the playoffs on the last day of the season. Over 308 games, 1964–68, Lucas averaged 20.5 points and 19.8 rebounds. The league commonly used ' team rebounds ' as a stat then when it wasn't clear who had collected some missed shots. It's possible that Lucas had the 64 remaining rebounds needed over four seasons to average 20 rebounds over those seasons. The only other NBA player to be '20-20' as often then was Chamberlain. The 1968–69 season saw the Royals briefly in first place, but playing some 15 home games outside Cincinnati, which increased their traveling. When Lucas sank 55% of his shots on the season, it was then the third-best shooting mark over a full season in league history. The 1960s were an uptempo NBA decade, where teams often scored 115 points per game and shooting percentages were often lower as a result. He also averaged 18–18 in points and rebounds that season, and four assists per game. In 1968, the American economy tightened, and Lucas saw his lines of credit for his investments close. Overextended on several fronts, his portfolio of investments collapsed. An embarrassed Lucas was soon forced to declare bankruptcy. His popularity among players, some of whom had lost their investments with him, declined greatly.
In 1969, Bob Cousy took over as coach of the Royals, who had again missed the playoffs in the tougher East Division. Wanting more of a running team, Cousy did not favor Lucas, now a heavier, slower player. But Lucas had a no-trade clause in his contract, and could steer his transfer to a chosen team. He chose San Francisco. In 1969–70, he suffered a broken hand, and went through a tough season. He bounced back to form in 1970–71, bringing himself back into playing shape at 230 pounds. Lucas averaged 19.2 points per game on 50% shooting, 15.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He was fifth in the league in rebounding in an NBA that now had 17 teams. Playing with Nate Thurmond, Clyde Lee, Jeff Mullins and Ron Williams, the .500 Warriors made the 1971 playoffs before losing to a powerful Milwaukee team that later won the 1971 NBA title.
By this point, Lucas was widely rated as one of the most accurate shooters and top rebounders in league history. The Warriors, needing a small scoring forward, dealt Lucas to the New York Knickerbockers, who needed a big man to backup their starting big men, Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere. In exchange, the Warriors received star small forward Cazzie Russell. Knicks coach Red Holzman had been a longtime Lucas fan. 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 at that spot. He would be the smallest center in the league, and many were skeptical that Lucas and the Knicks would do well in this arrangement. But in perhaps his best pro season, the 31-year-old Lucas starred. He led the Knicks in rebounds and shooting accuracy, and was second on the team in both scoring and assists only to Walt Frazier on the club. His outside shooting, which often extended past today's three point line, bewildered and changed defenses, as opponents were forced to send their big man 20 feet from the basket to guard Lucas. Lucas shot 51.2% from the floor that season, with many coming on what today would be three-point shots. He was also an outstanding passing center, just as he had been in college. The team was fourth in the NBA in defense with Lucas at center
The 48-34 Knicks upset both Baltimore and Boston to make the 1972 NBA finals against Los Angeles. Lucas played very well, averaging 20.8 points on 50% shooting, 9.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 46.6 minutes in the series against the Lakers and Chamberlain. When Game Four went to overtime, he played all 53 minutes. But New York lost the series. During this time, Lucas gained some press for a magic trick, ' The Phone Book '. In it, he memorized about 50 pages of the Manhattan White Pages, each page with columns of names and listed phone numbers. After other demonstrations, a party held by writer Dick Schaap and teammate Bill Bradley saw the trick tested by world chess champion Bobby Fischer, who was reportedly astounded. In 1972–73, Reed, the New York team captain and star, returned. Lucas was sent to the bench for the first time in his career. But, to keep Reed healthy for the playoffs, he still played often. In averaging ten points and seven rebounds, he also averaged 4.5 assists. The team made the NBA finals again, and this time New York won. The win gave Lucas the distinction of playing on a champion at every level of the game, high school-college-Olympics-NBA (a feat that would be accomplished by two other players, Quinn Buckner and Magic Johnson). He was the first such American player ever.
In the 1973–74 season, the Knicks made a run to repeat as champions, but lost to perennial rival Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. He had played far less and was physically declining in his 11th (and final) pro season.
Lucas retired from the NBA with the fourth-highest career rebounding average, 15.6, in league history. At retirement, he was fifth all-time in total career rebounds, with 12,942 total, but players with longer careers have since pushed him further down that list. He is also eighth all-time in minutes played per game, despite being a reserve the last two years of his pro career. In 1980, he was inducted into the Springfield Basketball Hall Of Fame with Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, all in their first year of eligibility. At the All-Star Game in Cleveland in 1997, he was introduced as one of The 50 Greatest NBA Players, wearing New York Knicks colors.
Lucas, who first married at age 20, has been married three times and has four children. His wife since 1989, Cheri Wulff Lucas, is a noted dog behaviorist. His son, J.J., also played college basketball.
Lucas still makes occasional appearances related to basketball at all levels of the game. He lives in central Ohio and remains close to the Ohio State basketball program. He has also been often seen at celebrity golf tournaments.
NBA career statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|†||Denotes season in which Lucas won an NBA championship|
|*||Led the league|
- Mr. Basketball USA
- List of National Basketball Association career rebounding leaders
- List of National Basketball Association players with most rebounds in a game
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball season rebounding leaders
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- ESPN Classic - Lucas had a secret weapon, his mind