CROWN CITY — Said to be one of the best basketball players of all-time, Jerry Lucas is now living his passion as he travels the country speaking on education.
Known as Dr. Memory, Lucas — who now resides in Gallia County — recently visited South Gallia Middle/High School to share his passion with students.
Lucas said his mind was always busy — counting cracks in sidewalks, number of things on hallways, eventually spelling and rearranging letters into different orders — something that was “absolutely useless.”
“But it kept my mind busy,” Lucas said. “And a couple of things happened when I was in fourth grade that would give me the two directions for my life.”
Not only did the Olympic gold medalist begin his basketball career in the fourth grade, he realized a valuable skill.
“Every tangible object we see and identify is registered in our mind in picture form,” Lucas said. “Never to be forgotten. It’s every item that we’ve seen and identified to reappear in out mind by just thinking. Now that is totally out of our control, we can’t stop.”
Lucas asked the students not to see a zebra in their mind, then stating it was “too late, you already saw it.”
The turning point, Lucas said, was when his fourth grade teacher taught the class the names of the Great Lakes.
“Our teacher said, ‘Today class, I’m going to teach you the Great Lakes,’” Lucas said. “‘Some of you may have heard of this, by seeing a picture in your mind.’ That was the first and last time any teacher ever taught me anything using a picture.”
Lucas said the teacher had the class imagine the Great Lakes and then imagine homes floating all over the lakes and then that HOMES is the lakes — Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
“And I thought to myself, I’ll never forget that,” Lucas recalled. “But the next thought that went through my mind gave me, I didn’t know it at the time, but the purpose and meaning of my life. I thought to myself, what if I could picture everything I needed to learn.”
From then on, Lucas has spent his time “giving identities to everything that’s intangible and abstract.”
Lucas said he did this with everything he needed to learn, becoming a “phenomenal student” by the time he reached Ohio State University.
During the same time, Lucas started basketball, playing only 15 seconds his first season.
“I decided I want to be a good basketball player and I realized there was only one way to do that,” Lucas said. “And that was to work. It was to dedicate myself to do things that were necessary to be a good basketball player.”
Lucas said his mind had been involved in everything he had ever done in life, including sports, and including basketball.
“Before that next summer started, I would lie in bed prior to going to sleep, I thought about shooting,” Lucas said. “I developed techniques in my own mind, I developed an acronym that U was going to follow every time I shot a ball.”
The acronym, DAD — direction, arc and distance — became the start of Lucas’ practicing where he said he shot 5,000 shots every single day that summer.
“I never shot a shot without a purpose in itself,” Lucas said. “I had a purpose for what I was doing and I was thinking about what I was doing and after a period of time, I became a really good shooter. I got to the point then when making a shot, really, was too easy.”
Lucas said he then switched things up, practicing pinpointing his shots and missing shots to see where they would land and other skills.
Lucas would eventually become one of the best rebounders of all time, with a career average of 15.6 rebounds per game.
Lucas said his heart has always been in education and word got around about his studying techniques. During his time at Ohio State University, he was approached by Woody Hayes, football coach, to assist one of his players with studying for a test.
“All I did was developed a picture for the term and develop pictures for the meaning and put the two together,” Lucas said. “Every time he thought of the term, he saw the answer.”
The student Lucas assisted did so well on the test that his professor thought he cheated, needing the student to come in and take the test again.
“If you can picture intangibles and make them tangible, learning is simple and easy,” Lucas said.
Lucas released a book in 1974, The Memory Book: The classic guide to improving your memory at work, at school and at play. He has now authored more than 60 books on memory and learning and is widely known for his expertise in memory.
Lucas said he does not have a unique skill or ability, he just knows how to use a skill that we all have.
Since his retirement from the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1974, Lucas has devoted his time to education — hiring an artist to help illustrate the pictures he has made for intangible objects and creating Dr. Memory’s University, an educational website to help students learn.
“Learning by repetition has never been and never will be any fun,” Lucas said. “But that’s all we’ve ever known. I realized to change the beginning, I had to know more about those beginning subjects.”
For the next five years, Lucas said he read hundreds and hundreds of textbooks, taking copious amounts of notes, staying up from 3 a.m. to midnight every day.
Dr. Memory’s University includes pictures Lucas made for “tens of thousands of pictures” from planets to spelling to English to math and more.
Lucas said his website is currently in 2D and needs to be in 3D. He is currently working with Gov. Mike DeWine and the Department of Education to bring the website up-to-date and ready for use.
“I’m excited that I’ve done something that’s going to make a difference,” Lucas said. “My whole life, I had the opportunity to become a multimillionaire several times in my life, and I could care less.”
Lucas said many tried to get him to stay with the NBA.
“I said the purpose of my life is to change education in America,” Lucas said.
Lucas said he could talk forever about education and he cannot wait to offer his website to students.
One thing Lucas said he is excited to do is offer the service to students in Ohio for two years, free of charge and that the program will be available nationwide.
“It works. It’s simple. It’s fun. People who have seen it are amazed and it will spread across America,” Lucas said.
Lucas allowed students to ask any questions they may have about basketball, memory or his education plan.
Dylan asked if Lucas still read most of the night.
“I did that for 40 years. I sleep about five hours a night,” Lucas said. “I still get up every day, excited to enjoy work. [About] getting three hours of sleep a night, I prayed about it. I said, Lord, you gotta help me. I never got tired.”
Phil asked what brought Lucas to Gallia County.
“I’ve been here about two years. I love it,” Lucas said. “I absolutely love it. When COVID started, I was concerned, so I called some friends down here and I said I want to come stay for awhile. And I came and loved it, like it so much that I stayed.”
Lucas said he will need to travel with the development of his website, but hopes to come back to Gallia County when it is complete.
Ellen asked if Lucas regretted not going into education.
Lucas said he majored in marketing, but did not know why. He said he never took an education class.
Lucas said he is excited to help others.
“I’m excited my life is going to be meaningful,” Lucas said.
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