Rucker Park History
It started in 1946 with one man and his vision; from that vision, thousands have gotten to touch a dream. Holcombe Rucker Memorial Park at 155th Street and 8th Avenue in Harlem is named for that man, who developed the Holcombe Rucker Professional Tournament 19 years before his untimely death in 1965. Site of the tournament, the park has been called “a certified hoops holy land” by Slam Magazine, which reported, “Of the millions of asphalt courts across America, only one has consistently produced a half-century worth of legends.” Rucker’s Playground, “where it all started.
The park was opened on February 23rd 1956 which was first named as P.S. 156 Playground. In 1965, Mr. Rucker, a New York City Parks Department worker, brought his small basketball TPleague to the outdoor park after staging his games at several different neighborhood sites. By the 1970′s, the spot had grown into the Mecca of street basketball, with so much talent that top professionals, including Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, came to Harlem to play against New York’s greatest street players. It was there that a knowing neighborhood population could watch Julius Erving meet his match against Joe Hammond, a playground legend called the Destroyer who never played a minute of high school or college ball. It wasn’t until 1974, 9 years after Mr.Rucker past away, a local law re-named it Holcombe Rucker Park. In the 45 years since Rucker died of cancer at age 38, this sanctified battleground has felt the thunderous presence of basketball heroes.