Rucker Park began in the late 1940s when a Harlem teacher started a basketball tournament for impoverished youngsters within the neighborhood. Holcombe L. Rucker did not expect street legends and NBA stars to be attracted to the park but this is exactly what happened. The park gave hope and entertainment to generations of kinds and affected the entire future of basketball.
Rucker Park originated from Park
Service playground named P.S. 156. This park opened on February 23rd,
1956 but in 1974, the park was renamed after Holcombe L. Rucker. Holcombe L.
Rucker grew up in Manhattan and attended Benjamin Franklin High School. He
worked for the New York City Parks and Recs as a playground director from
1948-1964. In 1947, he started a basketball tournament in Harlem. This
tournament was for kids of New York, inspiring them to succeed within their
school curriculum. Rucker personally taught participants and helped with their
homework, and also let report cards determine who would be able to play. These
tournaments helped to provide 700 college athletic scholarships to the kids of
NBA stars began to appear on the
court when Rucker organized games where his best players in Harlem would play
against the NBA’s best such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Rucker
died however in 1965 right as these tournaments began to prosper. Weekend
afternoons in the 1960s and 70s attracted big name basketball stars such as
Julius Erving, Nate (Tiny) Archibald, Joe (The Destroyer) Hammond, Connie
Hawkins, Richard (Pee Wee) Kirkland, Earl (The Goat) Manigault, Frank (Shake N’
Bake) Streety, and James (Fly) Williams. In the 1980s, NBA stars began to fear
injury during the off-season and opted not to attend the tournament. This
brought back the local league that once started at Rucker Park but big name
players have still appeared at the court since then. Names include Vince
Carter, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant.
The park has been established as
legendary training ground for NBA’s stars and has inspired many children within
the streets of Harlem. Many people propose that Holcombe Rucker should be
placed in the Hall of Fame for his contribution to the sport even though he
never played himself. Rucker Park continues today with tournaments such as the
Entertainers Basketball Classic (EBC), which begins June 15th on
2015 celebrating it’s 309th anniversary.