Jerry Lucas was an outstanding player. He had a good scoring touch, could tighten up his belt on defense, but what he’s known best for is rebounding. Rather than mince words, let’s let Lucas and his old teammate Wayne Embry summarize the obsession…
Wayne Embry: I never saw anyone as obsessed with rebounding as Jerry Lucas. I played center next to him, and I’d get a rebound and he’d get mad at me and fight me for it. I’d say ‘Hey, Jerry, I’m on your side.’ He wanted to outrebound everybody on both teams.
Jerry Lucas: …I was also absolutely manic about rebounds. I had great timing and a sixth sense. I knew where the ball would come off the board when a guy shot it, because I studied his tendencies… About everyone could outjump me, and they would just rely on their legs to get the rebounds. But that wasn’t good enough. I always could outrebound guys who just lived off their legs.
This maniacal pursuit of the boards led Lucas to a five-year stretch (1965 to 1969) where he practically averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds a game. 20.1 points and 19.5 rebounds to be exact. His time with the Cincy Royals was marked by constant first round exits, though. So despite being a member of the All-NBA 1st Team, the Royals concluded Lucas’ time was up on the Ohio River.
A trade to the San Francisco Warriors in 1969 didn’t herald much greater team success. Finally in 1971, the Warriors traded Lucas to the New York Knicks. Although approaching the twilight of his career and his rebounding and scoring had fallen off, Lucas provided the Knicks with his most under-appreciated asset: passing.
In the egalitarian New York offense, Lucas’ ability to pass as a power forward (4 APG in his 3 Knicks seasons) was instrumental in leading the club to the 1972 NBA Finals, which they lost, and the 1973 Finals, which they won.
As one of the most cerebral players ever to lace up a pair of sneakers, Lucas couldn’t have a found a better team to be on than those Knicks.
The championship payout was more than justified for the wiz rebounder who for a decadeproved a first-rate power forward.
Years Played: 1963 – 1974
3x All-NBA 1st Team (1965-’66, 1968)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1964, ’67)
7x All-Star (1964-’69, 1971)
All-Star Game MVP (1965)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1964)
Rookie of the Year (1964)
FG% Leader (1964)
NBA - 829 Games
17.0 PPG, 15.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 49.9% FG, 78.3% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1963-64 through 1973-74 season)
2nd Rebounds, 6th RPG
9th Points, 38th PPG
8th FGs Made, 7th FG%
18th FTs Made, 37th FT%
14th Assists, 40th APG
8th Games Played, 5th Minutes Played