In partnership with Readily Apparent Media, an Austin-based production company, OHA is assisting in the production of Let ‘Em Know You’re There, a short documentary about Jim Tucker, a former NBA player who has held the record for fastest triple-double for the past 60 years. Featuring animation that depicts a vibrant, unforgettable evening in Madison Square Garden in the 1950s, the film uses Jim’s record as a lens into a remarkable life outside of basketball.
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More about the film: In our society where so much importance is placed on the greatest and the records they set, it’s amazing that the stories of Jim Tucker and The Syracuse Nationals have faded as time marches on. Syracuse is where we pick up this story. The “Salt City,” as they called it, is a hard-nosed city of industry with a basketball team to match. Owner Danny Biasone, a fiery Italian immigrant, manager Leo Ferris, and coach Al Cervi had crafted a battle-hardened team heading into the 1954-1955 season. At the time, basketball wasn’t yet the graceful game of speed and dunks as it is now; it was a slow, bruising game more akin to hockey on a court. Yet, for all the Nationals’ grit, they still hadn’t won a championship. However, 1955 was a different story. That was the season that Jim Tucker joined The Nats.
Making his way out of Kentucky and through Duquesne University, Jim didn’t seem like a good fit for the game’s rougher days. At 6’7” and 170 pounds, Jim was no enforcer, but what he lacked in size, he made up for in speed. Speed would soon come in handy as Danny Biasone schemed of ways to get back at the big cities and their slowdown ways. Deliverance came in the form of the 24 second shot clock, saving the NBA and opening the door for the Nationals to win their first championship. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a story about how Jim, one of the first black players in the NBA, came onto the team and through his incredible skill, pushed this team over the hump, and into the history books. That simply wasn’t the case. Jim was a bench player, still too quick for a game that was coming of age. However, when he was finally given the opportunity, magic happened. On February 20, 1955 at the Onondaga County War Memorial, in a criminally under-recorded game, Jim Tucker achieved basketball greatness: the Triple Double. That’s double digits in three categories (points, assists, and rebounds) all in an inhuman, record-setting 17 minutes. That record withstood the greatness of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James that is, until Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) broke the record on February 15th, 2018.
In a tragic, yet fitting parallel to the diminished public memory of the Nationals, Jim’s memory is fading. After 10 years of hiding his symptoms, Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Games have blurred and memories of his career have faded, but what’s vividly stuck with Jim are the people he’s impacted along the way. His mother, his teammates, his children, and the people he’s touched in the business world are locked in technicolor. The reason for that is, despite our collective obsession with champions, Jim knows that the things that really matter in life are those within arm’s reach: the people we love and whom we can connect with on a personal level.