Jim Tucker did something that no basketball player has ever matched. Not Wilt Chamberlin, not Michael Jordan, not Tim Duncan, not Russell Westbrook.
On Feb. 20, 1955, Tucker — playing for the Syracuse Nationals, a team that later became the Philadelphia 76ers — recorded the fastest triple-double in NBA history. In just 17 minutes, the 6-foot-7 forward tallied 12 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
Tucker and his unmatched record have been largely forgotten, but two Roswell High graduates are hoping to change that.
“Let ‘Em Know You’re There” is a documentary about Tucker’s record, life and battle with Alzheimer’s. It’s being made by Field Humphrey, a 2006 Roswell High graduate, and his Austin, Texas-based production company, Readily Apparent Media. Humphrey was made aware of Tucker’s story by Bernie Snow, the former NBA player’s grandson and a classmate of Humphrey’s at Roswell High.
On Saturday, folks in north Fulton County can get a first look at the film at Gate City Brewing Company. There, from 2 to 4 p.m., the filmmakers will host a preview of the film to help fund the project.
A similar screening was held in Syracuse in November, and 25 minutes of footage from the film was shown.
“I knew about Alzheimer’s, but I never thought it would happen to me,” Tucker, now 85, says about his basketball feat in the film’s trailer. “And, back in my mind I’m wondering, ‘Did I really do that?’”
A native of Paris, Kentucky, Tucker played college basketball at Duquesne, where he was an All-American. He was drafted by the Nationals in the 1954 NBA Draft. Midway through his rookie season he set the triple-double speed record.
Tucker was a role player for the Nationals that season, logging 14.4 minutes per game. Syracuse would go on to top Fort Wayne in the NBA Finals, making Tucker and teammate Earl Lloyd the first African-American’s to win an NBA title.
Danny Biasone, owner of the Nationals, also introduced the 24-second shot clock that season, changing the game of basketball forever.
Tucker’s NBA career lasted just three seasons. He played in 99 games, scored 407 points and grabbed 349 rebounds, according to Basketball Reference. He later attended business school at Harvard and became a top executive at Pillsbury.
“Jim Tucker is a barely remembered player on a lightly remembered NBA title team,” David Ramsey, a sportswriter formerly based in Syracuse, says in the film’s trailer.
Tucker now lives in Florida with his wife Jan, and has been battling Alzheimer’s for the past several years. His wife has been stitching together photos, videos and other memories on an iPad for Tucker when he needs a boost. Those moments are also captured in the documentary directed by Humphrey.
“We’re kind of looking at a history of Jim’s life,” Jan says in the trailer. “I’ve gone through hundreds of photographs because of his recent loss of memory.”
Snow — who attended Roswell High and college with Humphrey, and was in his wedding — had always told his friend about his grandad who was an NBA player. Eventually, Humphrey talked with Tucker and his wife, and decided a film would be a great way to tell his story.
In addition to Humphrey, Readily Apparent’s Patrick Newman is helping produce the project. Newman has produced documentaries for Major League Baseball, the History Channel, and had a hand in an ESPN 30 for 30, “Brian and the Boz.” Humphrey also worked on ESPN 30 for 30’s, “Phi Slama Jama.”
Readily Apparent Media plans to release the documentary in full in 2018 and show it at film festivals.
A trailer for the documentary closes with a touching scene of Tucker speaking to the camera: “My name is Jim Tucker, and I have the fastest…, what is it that I have the fastest of?”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.