Thursday , Feb , 17 , 2011 C.Y. Ellis

Streetball Legends: Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland

How many players can say they turned down an NBA job offer because their “day job” was paying them better? Probably not too many in the past fifteen years due to the increases in salary, but even in the early days of the NBA it was a relative rarity. The only problem was that Kirkland’s second job was dealing drugs, something he started doing at the age of thirteen as a response to the poverty in which he was raised. Like basketball, it was something he quickly became very good at doing.

"I was out there with the cars and the drugs, the jewelry, the entourage. I was giving out money and making it back over again. I had the gangster style, I was the guy who was carrying two guns. That life is like quicksand. I knew right from wrong, but once you’re in, it’s almost impossible to get out." – Pee Wee Kirkland
"A legend in two games like Pee Wee Kirkland." – The Clipse 

The lifestyle soon caught up to him, however, sending him to the big house for a total of over ten years. Kirkland was a gifted scorer who could put up points in a hurry no matter where he played, scoring 100 points in one prison game and 135 in another. Over the course of one eight-game stretch in a La Luna, Texas correctional facility he poured in 465 points for a 58 ppg average. Kirkland was one of the first players to use the crossover and spin dribble to deadly effect in organized basketball and is seen as as a pioneer of the slashing guard mold.

Pee Wee redeemed himself on becoming a free man, turning his back on the street life that derailed his basketball career. He recently earned a master’s degree from Lincoln University and now teaches the Philosophy of Basketball at Long Island University in addition to touring the country to speak to children about avoiding the pitfalls of the criminal life.