Although his name rarely occampanies contemporaries like Oscar Robertson and Jerry West in discussions of the best players of the '60s, Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas was one of the central players of the era. An amateur legend both in high school and at Ohio State, Lucas made seven All-Star Games, won an NBA title in 1973, and was named to the All-NBA First Team in three seasons. Lucas was a national name even before he entered college, and he was a central figure to the sport for more than a decade.
So, when he recently decided to auction off some of the greatest pieces of memorabilia from his time in basketball, it demanded some notice. From Rick McCrabb for the Middletown Journal (via The Point Forward):
Lucas said for years the items were stored in his home. Because he couldn’t divide the items fairly among his family, he said selling them through Grey Flannel Auctions was “the right thing to do at this time.” He called the items “really good stuff.”
Several of the pieces of memorabilia were displayed at last week’s National Sports Collectors Show in Chicago. Lucas posed with some of the items and also was an autograph guest at the show that included some of the biggest names in sports.
Lucas said the “best item” up for auction is the Olympic gold medal. When asked the last time he placed the gold medal around his neck, Lucas said with a laugh: “1960.”
He never displayed the items in his home.
“Things don’t mean a lot to me,” he said. “They never have. I have real great memories associated with them, but they’re hard to see when they’re in a closet.” [...]
The most expensive item probably will be the gold medal, which has a reserve of $250,000, Russek said. He refused to guess what it may sell for, saying “the market will dictate the price.”
He said the medal will be the first one ever sold at auction, and because Lucas is a Hall of Famer, makes it only more valuable.
The lot, available for preview at the Grey Flannel Auctions website, includes several championship rings from various levels, game-worn jerseys, and Lucas's official Top 50 Greatest Players lithograph. It also bears note that his gold medal is associated with what's commonly believed to be the best Olympic team prior to the '92 Dream Team. The roster included Hall of Famers Robertson, West, Lucas, and Walt Bellamy; won all eight of their games by an average margin of 42.4 points, and earned induction into Springfield as a group in 2010.
These are items we'd typically consider very personal, the sort of things that usually become available when a retired athlete falls on hard times. And yet it appears that Lucas chose to hold this auction to make his life a little easier, or maybe to avoid a "King Lear"-ish scenario among his children.
It's worth taking him at his word when he says he has valuable memories of his life in the sport, too. After retiring from the NBA in 1974, Lucas took up a second career as a memory expert, published several books on the subject, and even appeared on "The Tonight Show" to show off his skills.
For the lucky few who have the means to bid on these items, it may be worth checking out the lot. Otherwise, consider taking the time to acquaint yourself with Lucas's illustrious career. This highlight mix (set to Kenny G's "Silhouette," for some reason) isn't a bad start.
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- Jerry West