Ryan performing tricks with basketballs at the College Center Commons. Submitted Photo.

Oscar Rosado

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Jack Ryan, aka Black Jack Ryan, is a streetball and basketball player, and entertainer for the Harlem Wizard, as well as a first-generation student at LCCC. He was also a former player of the LCCC’s men’s basketball team for the 1980-81 season during his time on campus.

Ryan began playing basketball at the age of eight years old, and attended LCCC in the fall semester of 1980. He was at campus for only a brief period of time before being thrown off the basketball team, and then leaving school.

Ryan does not recall what classes he took during his time at campus, but recalls taking the easiest courses possible. Only being on campus for one semester, Ryan did not recall even finishing the semester, although he did finish his classes.

During his time here, he played basketball. “That’s the reason why I came here, is because I signed a letter of intent to go play basketball on a scholarship to Ohio University,” said Ryan.

However, a week later, the University rejected him because Ryan’s grades were so low, only having a GPA of 1.9. That is what led Ryan to LCCC, to get his grades up, and play ball, only for him to be thrown off the team, and ultimately out of school.

Ryan said he went back home, got another offer from Oregon, only for the exact same scenario to play out again. Later, Ryan walked on Brooklyn College, a division one basketball school at the time, made the team, and got thrown off the team at Christmas.

“I couldn’t listen to authority, I wanted to do it my way, I never thought I would get caught, I was a class clown, I was a coach’s worst nightmare, a teacher’s worst nightmare, and a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Ryan. He went on to add, “Never was a bad kid, didn’t rob anybody, didn’t beat anybody up, never used drugs, I just couldn’t get out of my own way, and I couldn’t listen to authority.”

Enter the Harlem Wizards

Ryan said he got opportunity after opportunity and blew every single one, yet not until he got an opportunity at the age of 37 years old to be a Harlem Wizard that he would say to himself, ‘this is why I’m here, this is what I wanna do, I’m not screwing this up’, and would to the gym and practice mornings, noons, and nights as well as at parks, and his apartment. According to Ryan, one year he became the best trickster on the team.

The Harlem Wizards are an entertainment team like the Harlem Globetrotters, and have been around since 1962. The difference between the two is that the Globetrotters play against the same team day in, day out at the big arenas, and the Wizards do fundraisers at the highschools where they play against the school teachers, according to Ryan. 

“It is the same type of funny, interactive, tricks, comedy, dancing, etc. same thing, but a little different,” said Ryan.

“I had a rough upbringing, up until the age of 37, and then I was discovered by the Harlem Wizards, and ever since then, it’s been great,” said Ryan.

He was discovered by the Wizards at a basketball tournament in Florida where Ryan was spinning a basketball on his thumb. “One thing led to another, and that was it. That changed my life, just like that,” said Ryan.

Ryan has been with the Harlem Wizards since 1997. According to Ryan, he has done thousands of shows, all around the world, including Qatar, China, Barcelona, and Berlin. With Qatar and Barcelona being Ryan’s favorite spots.

Playing off little fumbles

However no one is perfect. Ryan himself had one incident where he did not perform perfectly. “I was getting ready to spin my finale for the Portland Trail half time show in Oregon. I was spinning my basketballs, I could see one of them slowing down, and I tried to hurry up, I had seven, eight, nine – I grabbed the tenth one, and that one fell and hit the other basketball, and went downhill from there,” said Ryan. He went on to add, “there’s always little fumbles, but no one can see, I just play it off,” chuckled Ryan. He said he practices a lot, saying it takes hard work, and repetition, saying time needs to be put.

Ryan with Coach Marty Eggleston. Submitted Photo.

Still doing tricks

Like many, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Ryan, but says he is still working. Ryan has performed at many events such as high schools, colleges such as LCCC, bar mitzvahs, etc. Ryan has not slowed down at all as a basketball entertainer.

LCCC’s own Men’s Varsity Coach, Marty Eggleston had invited Ryan back on campus. Ryan and Eggleston met in 1994 in New York.

“We know each other, but Coach Marty didn’t know I went here, and I didn’t know he was coaching here, so when he saw my show, we got in touch and long story short he brought me here to speak to the students, perform, and do a halftime show,” said Ryan.