Streetball Legend Pee Wee Kirkland Honored By City Of Norfolk For His Community Efforts | The Former Drug Kingpin Has Become A Hero

Hoops legend turned motivational speaker and youth mentor Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland was honored by the city of Norfolk, in Virginia where he played college ball for Norfolk State, for his positive impact on the lives of young people.

“It means everything. This is why I do it,” Kirkland said. “Young people all over the country respect the name Pee Wee Kirkland. … They know when I first said to myself that I committed my life to impacting their lives, I said I was going to do it until I dropped. And I meant that. I haven’t dropped, so I’m still doing it.”

A Leader In The Community

The 78-year-old Kirkland was born in New York City in 1945 and started playing street ball at the age of 9, and by the time he entered high school already had a reputation as an elite scorer. He was named All-City while at Charles Evans Hughes High School.

He had a Division I offer to play at UCLA under fame coach John Wooden and alongside the nation’s best player Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Imagine Kirkland and Alcindor as a duo?

Kirkland ended up at Norfolk State where he averaged 41 points per game and was named team MVP in 1968. He played with future NBA All-Star Bobby Dandridge.

Legend In Two Games

He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1969 but turned down the NBA because he was making more money as a drug kingpin back in Harlem.

As is often the case when leading a life of crime, it caught up with Kirkland and he spent 11 years in federal prison. It was during this time that he made a decision to turn his life around and serve as an example to young people.

In 1983, he began a program to help change the lives of NYC youth. He later founded Pee Wee Kirkland’s School of Skillz, a motivational community program that through basketball, works to change the culture of young people, that is sponsored by Nike.

Kirkland served as a high school hoops coach and won championships at The Dwight School in New York City and earned a masters degree in human services from Lincoln University.

Kirkland’s transformation has impressed many and impacted the lives of countless youth across the country.

“I’ll remember him as a good basketball player, but also a good person who is giving back to his community, particularly in Harlem,” Dandridge said. “And for his willingness to try to turn some people around, especially young people. That’s how I’’m going to remember him.”

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