Jerry Ray Lucas (born March 30, 1940) is an American former basketball player and memory education expert. Famous first in basketball, 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. 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 pro, Lucas was named All-NBA First Team three times, a 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 Springfield 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. He is known today as Doctor Memory.
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 a piece 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.
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 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 a 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. Had there been a three-point line in his time, he may well have been a 50% shooter from it. 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 Robert Schapp 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. He was the first such American player ever. In 1973-74, the Knicks made a run to repeat as champions, but lost to Boston in the Eastern final. He had played far less and was physically declining in his final and 11th pro season.
Lucas retired from the NBA with the fourth-highest 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. Dave DeBusschere and Willis Reed had to wait another year for the same honor. 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.
Career highlights and awards
NBA champion (1973)
7× NBA All-Star (1964–1969, 1971)
NBA All-Star Game MVP (1965)
3× All-NBA First Team (1965–1966, 1968)
2× All-NBA Second Team (1964, 1967)
NBA Rookie of the Year (1964)
NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
NCAA champion (1960)
2× NCAA Final Four MOP (1960, 1961)
2× AP Player of the Year (1961, 1962)
3× Consensus first-team All-American (1960–1962)
Men’s basketball Competitor for the United States
Gold medal – first place 1960 Rome Team competition