Holcombe Rucker, activist, basketball tournament founder

Holcombe Rucker (March 2, 1926 – March 20, 1965) was a playground director in Harlem for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation from 1948 to 1964. He founded the New York City pro-am basketball tournament, that still bears his name and is the namesake of a world-famous basketball court in Harlem.

Rucker grew up in Manhattan and  started the tournament in 1950 at a playground on 7th Avenue between 128th and 129th streets. He insisted that education be a fundamental part of the Rucker League, in keeping with its motto — “Each one, teach one.” Through his efforts, over 700 individuals were able to obtain basketball scholarships to help finance their education. The tournament grew into the stuff of legend in the 1960s, when many NBA stars such as Wilt Chamberlain participated.

Rucker attended City College of New York and graduated in 1962 with a degree in Education.  He went on to teach English at J.H.S. 139 before he died of cancer in 1965 at age 38. In 1974 the city renamed P.S. 156 Playground, located at 155th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, as Holcombe Rucker Playground in dedication to his community efforts and his basketball tournament is played there every year. The court is the most famous street basketball court in the world.

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