NORMAN — About 40 years ago, Gerald Tucker returned home from a business trip to find his wife standing in the middle of all of the reminders of his accomplishments.
An Olympic gold medal. The Helms Foundation College Basketball Player of the Year Award. Numerous trophies for basketball and tennis. Mementos of his days as a big band singer.
Deeon Tucker had found the boxes in the attic and was floored.
“What is all this?” she asked Gerald.
“Oh, you found it,” he answered before apologizing profusely. “Well, I wanted you to love me for who I am and not what I’d done in the past.”
Those trophies, plaques and photos immediately went up on the wall at the Tucker home.
Gerald Tucker has been gone for more than 35 years. Deeon died a decade later.
But next week, those accomplishments will be complemented by Tucker’s induction into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
It’s an honor that Ted Owens has advocated for Tucker for several years. It will be Owens, who followed Tucker at the University of Oklahoma, who presents Tucker into the hall.
“Gerald was sort of a legend when I arrived at OU,” said Owens, who was inducted himself in 2010. “A lot of his teammates were still on the team, and I played with them and heard a lot of the great stories about Gerald.”
Owens heard about Tucker’s tremendous low-post presence, even at 6-foot-4.
“He was not a great athlete in terms of — he wasn’t particularly fast, he couldn’t dunk the ball so he couldn’t jump very high, he was flat-footed. But in spite of those handicaps, if you’d get him the ball in the low post, he was incredible.
“He was equally good with his left hand as he was with his right. He was a state champion in tennis. He was just an incredibly talented person.”
Tucker starred for the Sooners in the ’40s. In 1943, he was a Helms Foundation All-American before serving in World War II.
When he returned, he earned the National Player of the Year award in 1947, a year after Oklahoma A&M’s Bob Kurland won the honor.
That year, Tucker led the Sooners into the NCAA championship game, where they lost to Holy Cross.
He went into coaching, which included the U.S. team in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
That team, led by Bill Russell, won its eight games by an average of better than 53 points per game. Even the 1992 Dream Team couldn’t equal that feat.
Trent Tucker didn’t have any idea about his dad’s accomplishments until his mother found that box in the attic.
But in the few years afterward, he started to get an idea about his father’s basketball stature.
He played with Kurland during a visit to an award ceremony in Oklahoma. He saw pictures of his father standing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the presentation of another award.
They watched sports together.
“That was his love, outside of my mother and me and my two sisters and my brothers,” Trent Tucker said. “He really liked to just sit back and show me different plays. Too bad we didn’t have the technology then that we do now because he would’ve loved rewinding.”
Trent remembers those lessons more for the things he learned that transcend sports than about how to shoot the basketball or make the perfect pass.
“One of the things that my father really stressed teaching me basketball and golf and football and tennis was just to have the respect for not only your teammates and your coach but the opponents and the people around you,” Trent said. “You need to stay humble and not let it get the best of you.”
Trent followed his father’s footsteps in the musical realm and not the athletic one. He’s a musician in the Austin, Texas, area.
Trent, who was 9 when his father died, has learned plenty more about his father.
In 1992, as Michael Jordan and Co. dominated the Olympics, Trent leaned over to the singer of the group he was in at the time and told him not to be surprised when his father’s picture showed up on the screen with a mention of Russell.
“That was the first time I really got a taste of that,” Trent said. “That’s my dad.”