Pee Wee Kirkland

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Pee Wee Kirkland
Born Richard Kirkland
(1945-05-06) May 6, 1945 (age 70)
Harlem Hospital, Harlem, New York
Residence East New York, Brooklyn[citation needed]
Nationality American
Other names Rick Kirkland
Pee Wee Kirkland
Ethnicity African-American
Education Charles Evans Hughes High School
Alma mater Kittrell College
Occupation Former street basketball player, ex-convict

Richard "Pee Wee" Kirkland (born May 6, 1945 in Harlem, New York) is a former street basketball player from New York City, United States of America, Earth. His play at Rucker Park (originally organized by Holcombe Rucker) in the 1970 and 1971 season is regarded as legendary.[1]



He played varsity basketball at Charles Evans Hughes High School in Manhattan, New York, and was made an All-City guard. He was awarded a scholarship and attended Kittrell College, a community college in Kittrell, North Carolina, and was on the basketball team averaging 41 PPG. He then attended Norfolk State University and played on the basketball team, teaming up with later NBA star Bob Dandridge.[2] His teams had phenomenal years. The Spartans won the CIAA title in 1968 with a 25-2 record; they lost in the second round of the NCAA Division II Men's Tournament. The next year their record was 21-4 and they lost in the first round of the D-II tournament. In 1969 he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the fourth pick in the thirteenth round. It is speculated that he turned the offer down, because he was making more money being a drug dealer. At the time, the opportunities offered to him outside of the NBA were far more lucrative, in terms of financial gain and public recognition.[3][4] Kirkland was imprisoned for committing crimes, first in 1971 in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

In prison[edit]

In prison he scored 465 points in 8 games. He also played in prison from 1981 to 1988 at Federal Correctional Institution, La Tuna in El Paso County, Texas. In the Anthracite Basketball League of central Pennsylvania he scored 100 and 135 points in one game.[5][citation needed]

Motivational speaker[edit]

Kirkland travels the country speaking to youth about decision-making and pathways to success, in addition to self-esteem and other various issues plaguing the inner-cities of America.[6]

He presents his messages in the "School of Skillz"—a basketball and life skills campaign that is co-sponsored by Nike. The camps began in the 1990s on Saturdays in Harlem and has since become a nationwide endeavor. He has won championships as a high school coach at The Dwight School, a prestigious private school on the Upper West Side, in New York City. One of his early breakthroughs involved reaching out to youth such as Hanif "Camel" Warren. As an educator and social worker, Kirkland utilizes the respect he receives from young people because of his gangster past to reach at-risk youth and break down their misconceptions about "keepin' it real" on the streets.[7]

He was a faculty member of Long Island University teaching classes about the Philosophy of Basketball Coaching.[when?] In 2000, he earned a master's degree in human services from the online Lincoln University.[dubious ] He has started his own recording label, So Gangsta Music (SOG).[citation needed]


In the basketball film "Above The Rim", Pee Wee Kirkland appeared as Georgetown recruiter Phil Redd.[8] Kirkland was mentioned in a song by the rap group Clipse in the song "Grindin" from their 2002 release entitled Lord Willin'. The line "Legend in two games like I'm Pee Wee Kirkland" refers to his skill as both a drug dealer and basketball player. He is also featured in the music video for the song "New York Minute" by rapper French Montana. Kirkland is shown throughout the video alongside rappers French Montana and Jadakiss. He is also mentioned in Terror Squad's "Lean Back". The line referenced mentions "Not even Pee-Wee Kirkland could imagine this, my niggas didn't even have to play to win the championship". He is also mentioned in "Always on Time" by Ja Rule ("I'm a playground legend like Kirkland Pee-Wee"). He also appears in the documentary Sneaker Stories, filmed in 2008. Most recently, he appeared in the documentary Doin' It in the Park filmed in 2012 about the New York outdoor courts and players who lived on them.[9]


  1. ^ Streetball Champions of Rucker Park
  2. ^ Mallozzi, Vincent M. (1997-01-12). "The Legend of Pee Wee Kirkland Grows". The New York Times Print Edition. The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  3. ^ Gitanjali Maharaj, "Talking Trash: Late Capitalism, Black (Re)Productivity, and Professional Basketball"
  4. ^ "Social Text", No. 50, The Politics of Sport (Spring, 1997), pp. 97-110
  5. ^ "Pee Wee Kirkland". 
  6. ^ Interview on Sound Slam
  7. ^ Interview by Mary Buckheit "Pee Wee Kirkland: From American gangster to crossover legend"
  8. ^
  9. ^ Doin' It in the Park, a film about pick up basketball

External links[edit]