Malcolm X stated, “History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.” The documentary Rucker 50 establishes the collective conscienceless of the history of the now world-renowned basketball tournament/ phenomenon. The Rucker is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and to mark this milestone Robert McCullough Jr. and Darryl L. Neverson have written and directed the film Rucker 50.
The film not only chronicles the contributions to the game of basketball, but also acknowledges its place in American culture. Set against a backdrop of the civil rights movement, the Rucker league became part of the movement. It influenced African-American empowerment, and Hip-Hop music and culture. During an era of urban blight and “white flight” from the inner cities the league helped to re-establish and redefine Harlem as the epicenter of Black culture.
From the beginning in 1965 the tournaments change the game of basketball forever. As black athletes rose to prominence and influence in all areas of sports The Rucker brought the hard fighting “in your face” street style off the Harlem streets and on to the NBA courts. Professional and street ballers came together and brought their oft-times flamboyant one-upmanship to the courts to the delight of the crowds (a crowd that could be as enthusiastic and as critical as any Apollo amateur night audience).
The forty-eight minute documentary shares the memories of the NBA legends, Pro basketball players (from decades past), Civil Rights activists, Harlem residents, musicians, Rucker players and spectators who witnessed the games. The result is a fast paced and complete historical film that captures both the energy and panache of both the era and the tournament. This is due to the clear and concise editing by Ronald James Lewis and Eric Maryea.
Rucker 50 is a testament to the resilient spirit of the Americans of African decent, a people who have either influenced or been the source of every American born art form. The film also demonstrates the inclusive nature and inherent camaraderie of competitive sports. The tournament’s only requirement was talent; it offers opportunities to men, women, and athletes of all races, creeds or color. Hopefully this altruistic credo will become the rule for all professional sports and society at large.
Rucker50 Documentary- Preview
In Photo: 1) Dr. Jay aka Julius Erving 2) Rucker Pro Tour Founder Bob McCullough Sr., Secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio Alize Beal and Each One Teach One Director of Programs George Ball 3) Ollie Taylor (right) 4) Joe Hammond and Kobe Bryant