COLUMN: Chris Rackley dies suddenly

By TOM WILLIAMS

Chris Rackley, one of the best basketball players in Ocean City High School history, suffered a major heart attack earlier this week in California and died.

Rackley played for OCHS for four years through 1982 and scored 1,260 points, the third highest total in school history when he graduated and the fifth highest now. He was lightning-quick and had a remarkable shooting range. He could use his quickness and leaping abilities to break down almost any defense.

Jack Boyd’s Raiders won 52 games in Rackley’s three years in the starting lineup, including a 33-5 record in the Intermediate School, where the home games were played. His sophomore year ended with one of the most exciting NJSIAA tournament games in school history – an 85-81 loss to Mainland in a second round game that went three overtimes.

In his senior year, Rackley and teammates Matt Watts, Homer Baker, Jay Hannah and Chris Gayle pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the prestigious Seagull Classic when they defeated Power Memorial of New York City, 73-71. Power was the high school that produced Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Len Elmore and Chris Mullin. Rackley scored 27 in that game.

He played six years before the three-pointer came to high school basketball in New Jersey and would probably have had close to 100 additional point if that option was available to him. Plus, he missed 10 games his sophomore year under unfortunate circumstances.

Rackley was part of a troubled, though talented, family. He and his older brother, Bill (known as “Pop”), combined for 2,050 points, the most by any two brothers in OCHS history. Chris had a few juvenile violations and police suspected he was involved in a robbery early in his sophomore year. Before the charges were filed, the school administration suspended him from the basketball team.

Boyd came to his player’s defense, eventually getting the ACLU involved in the matter. After a couple weeks of this unwarranted suspension, more than half of the OCHS student body walked out in the middle of a school day, stood across the street and refused to return until Rackley was re-instated.

He was back on the team a few days later.

Rackley was averaging more than 17 points that year so it is not a stretch to imagine he could have scored 170 more points if he had played in those 10 games. And that would have made him the school’s all-time career scoring leader. He and Matt Watts combined for 1,927 career points, the second most by any two OCHS players in the same graduating class behind Mike Rowell and Jay Granger (2,197).

Continuing the family’s success on the hardcourt, Rackley’s nephew, Luciano Lubrano, was also a 1,000-point scorer for OCHS, graduating three years ago.

He had some addiction problems later in life that lead to a few problems with the law. But he overcame and was drug-free for well over a decade, working in California.

Those who saw him play will never forget the great excitement and athleticism he brought to the basketball court which was sort of a sanctuary for him – a place where he was successful and where life was good.

Chris Rackley was 56.

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “COLUMN: Chris Rackley dies suddenly

  1. I played with Chris his junior year in highschool and was the driver behind the walkout that resulted in his reinstatement. My father and I took him up into the mountains that week to get him away from the rumor mill. Great player. I was also friends with his brother Pops, another great OCHS player

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    1. It is sad to see a member of our high school community die at such a young age. Thank you, Mr. Williams, for the wonderful tribute for Chris and as always incorporating those who loved and supported him- his teammates, his coach, Jack Boyd, and his classmates who had the courage to walk across the street on his behalf. I wish Chris’ family and friends peace in the coming days, weeks and years.

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  2. Good Young Brother.Always Greeted Me With A Smile And A Positive Attitude
    The Rackley’s Were One Of The First Families I Met When I First Started Hanging Out In OCEAN CITY.Wish I Could
    Turn Back The Hands Of Time.

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  3. I would like to give my condolences to the family. I never played against Chris in High School , but we battled in the summer league. He was always competitive and a good person. Our families go back a long way his brother Pop and my Brother Bruce played against each other.This is a shock and a great loss to not only the basketball community but us as a whole. God Bless the family, and Rest In Peace my Brother.

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  4. Love bill rackely alwaysvfunny besides if he didn’t play ball he would of been another Kevin hart he would of made it anyway

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  5. Tom Williams, thank you for the touching story.. You really grasped the essence of his basketball history, and really shined a beautiful light on the positive reflections my dad imparted on the community.
    Great job Dad! R.I.P💔❤️

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    1. Always wondered where Chris ended up they the years. So sorry he passed. Proud to have been a part of the walk-out that helped to re-instate him. Was happy to have called him a friend. Taken way too soon. 😞 Prayers to his family

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  6. Me too Joey! Soooo glad I worked at Prudential in Linwood with his Aunts and extended family. We definitely have the same Family by our Dad being from Pleasantville!
    BIG Family ❤️!

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  7. RIP Man haven’t seen you in some years, I did get to see some pics of you resently with Kim…Sorry to hear of your passing we hung out alot back in the day and had lots of fun times in OC…We go back to the late 1968 to now….You will be missed but never forgotten….My condolences to the family🙏🏽🙏🏿🙏🏾

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  8. to the family my prayers are with you god will see you threw god bless jerrie Crawford and family rest in peace ricky

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  9. Thank you for sharing this story. For all of us who grew up with and had the opportunity to play ball with Chris “Man” Rackley and/or his big brother “Pop” it’s truly hard to believe that he’s gone. My prayers go out to all the family.

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