Rucker Park: The most famous playground in basketball

RUCKER PARK, Harlem (WABC) -- Did you know Harlem is home to the premier street basketball court on the planet?

Every summer, a world-famous tournament takes place at Rucker Park in Harlem, where the best basketball prospects and street ballers compete for playground primacy.

Elite hoops have been a staple at Rucker for decades, with more than 25 alums moving on to play in the NBA, including legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, "Dr. J" Julius Erving and Kobe Bryant.

"Madison Square Garden of the playground," is how Knicks legend and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson describes it.

The comparison doesn't come lightly for Jackson, who grew up in Brooklyn and played at MSG the first five years of his career. "You talk about the Garden being the Mecca, well, Rucker Park is the Mecca."

The first tournaments began under Holcombe Rucker, a teacher and playground director from Harlem, in the late 1940s.

Rucker's initial mission was to keep kids out of trouble by keeping them on the court. He would prioritize playing time based on who had the best grades, a manifestation of his philosophy: "Each one, teach one."

In the 1950s, the tournament founded in Rucker's name moved to its current location, the corner of 155th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, and began to attract world-class talent. The rest is history.

"This is a man who has impacted not thousands; millions," Jackson says. "It really is black history, and to Holcombe Rucker, I truly say thank you, and salute."

Don't miss more incredible stories in honor of Black History Month.
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