Know your NYC Hoop History… The one and only Rucker Park

December 11, 2009

Ballin' at the Rucker

Harlem was an epicenter of professional sports in the 1900’s, and the Polo Grounds was ground zero. It was a stadium that hosted professional football games, college football games and was once the home of baseballs New York Giants before they moved to San Francisco. Many of New York’s professional teams can trace their roots to the former space that occupied 155th street.

Though the field is gone and a housing complex has replaced the grandstands, sports are alive and well, in particular the game of basketball.

In 1946, Holcombe Rucker, a Harlem schoolteacher, staged the first summertime Rucker Tournament. His goal was to provide direction and a leg up for thousands of boys and girls. An immediate success, Rucker expanded to after-school programs during the school year. In 1950 the Pro Division was formed to accommodate pros anxious to assist Rucker in achieving his goals.

By the 1960s, The Rucker was a must stop for top college and pro stars eager to prove themselves. Though staged throughout Harlem and other courts in northern Manhattan, the Rucker Tournament — also known at times as the Rucker Summer League — eventually came to call the courts at 155th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard home.

The playground is now known as the Holcombe Rucker Basketball Courts. The league is now known as Rucker Pro-Am and it hosts the best basketball talent from the entire country.

Holombe L. Rucker Park

155th street and Frederick Douglas boulevard

Harlem, New York

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