Malcolm X stated, “History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.” The Rucker celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2015 in and to mark the milestone directors Robert McCullough Jr. – the son of the founder of the Rucker, Robert McCullough Sr. along with Holcombe Rucker (March 2, 1926 – March 20, 1965) – and Darryl L. Neverson, wrote and directed the film #Rucker50 to chronicle its contributions to the game of basketball, but also to 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 changed the game of basketball forever. As Bblack 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).
Pro basketball players (from decades past), Civil Rights activists, Harlem residents, musicians, Rucker players and spectators who witnessed the games are all interviewed in #Rucker50. The film is a testament to the resilient spirit of the Americans of African descent and 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.
Q&A with Rucker tournament founder Robert McCullough Sr., directors Robert McCullough Jr and Darryl L. Neverson, and NYC street-ball and NBA All-Star legend Kenny Anderson, and subject of upcoming documentary Mr. Chibbs.