The 6-foot, 8-inch Mr. Lucas led the Middletown, Ohio, Middies to 76 straight wins and a state high school championship. He played center for the legendary Ohio State teams that went 78-6 during his college career, winning the NCAA title in 1960.
He played on the gold medal 1960 U.S. Olympic squad.
He also graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
In 11 seasons in the NBA, Mr. Lucas averaged 17 points and 15.6 rebounds a game. He was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1980 and was named one of the "50 Greatest Players in NBA History" in 1996.
Yet, he said, he always felt that "something was missing."
"My family were not Christians. We never attended church or Sunday school. I had no spiritual training whatsoever when I went to Ohio State," Mr. Lucas said in an interview this week. "I had considerable success as an athlete and student, but something seemed out of place in my life."
As his professional career was winding down, he began pondering his next step.
"I knew my life was going to change drastically," he said.
In 1974, he approached a friend in New York for advice, "and that day he led me to Christ," he said. "There's more to life than a body, there's a soul and a spiritual person too."
Mr. Lucas, 70, always had an amazing memory, dazzling talk show hosts and audiences by memorizing virtually anything.
After becoming a committed Christian, he began using his mental abilities for spiritual purposes.
"I began to apply myself diligently just as I have in almost everything in my life," he said.
Known as "Dr. Memory," Mr. Lucas has memorized the entire New Testament, and has taught millions to improve their memory with his best-selling books and in-person workshops.
He will speak on improving family relationships at Zion Lutheran Church in Waterville tomorrow at the 9 and 10:45 a.m. services, and will lead workshops on memory at the church, 22 North Second St., at 7 p.m. tomorrow and Monday (information: 419-878-0266).
"I'm not a preacher, but I am in the ministry," Mr. Lucas said. "I teach and preach in churches all over America."
Contact David Yonke at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.