Jerry Ray Lucas, born March 30, 1940, is an Olympic Gold Medal winner (as a member of the 1960 United States men's Olympic basketball team), an NCAA National Champion (as a member of the 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes men's basketball team), and an NBA Champion (as a member of the 1973 New York Knicks). He is also a seven-time NBA All-Star, and a two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, being inducted in 1980 for his individual career, and in 2010 as a member of the 1960 Olympic team.

In May 1963 Lucas signed with Warren Hensel, then briefly 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 attendance league-wide that season. He was even a factor, as a then-coveted white star, in the league's new television contract. Lucas would easily be one of the NBA's most popular players throughout the 1960s.

Early in the 1971–72 season, the injury-prone Willis Reed went down for the season. Lucas, not a starting center since college, was pressed into service. 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. Lucas then helped the team past Baltimore and Boston in the playoffs, where his strong outside shooting forced the strong rebounders on those teams away from the basket, and rebounds, to guard him. Lucas helped lead New York into the 1972 NBA Finals, where the Knicks lost in five games.

In 1972–73, Reed had returned, but Lucas played more minutes than Reed at center during that season, helping New York save the injury-prone Reed for the playoffs. Focusing more on passing at center, Lucas 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.

In 1974, the Knicks made a run to repeat as NBA champs, but the team was eliminated in the East finals. Lucas, Reed and DeBusschere, all Hall of Famers, retired as players after that season.

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.

At retirement, Lucas ranked fourth all-time in rebounds per game to Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Bob Pettit.

August 07, 2014 by Renee White

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