Lloyd (Swee' Pea) Daniels is shot, nearly killed for stealing crack in … – New York Daily News


Lloyd Daniels in 1986 (The Sporting News/Sporting News via Getty Images)
The sports classic, “Swee’ Pea: The story of Lloyd Daniels and Other Playground Legends,” by John Valenti and Ron Naclerio, is being reissued 25 years after going out of print.
The book tells the story of Lloyd (Swee’ Pea) Daniels, an East New York basketball phenomenon whose multi-million dollar career never happened.
A high school all star who could pass like Magic Johnson and shoot like Larry Bird, word of his greatness spread far beyond the city playgrounds. In the 1986-87 recruiting cycle, the 6-foot-7 teenager was hotly pursued. But Daniels was a crack addict — fated to a career of last chances and the odd stunning comeback that faced away.
High school and college coaches pulled shady maneuvers to keep Daniels in the game. That he never even learned to read was immaterial. Unethical sources made sure the young addict always had money for pricey kicks and sweats and God knows what else.
A drug-related arrest cost Daniels a basketball scholarship while a shooting in 1989 stole some of his physical prowess. In the aftermath, he spent years drifting from team to team in the NBA, never catching fire — even though he was still sometimes capable of incredible moves.
Now a 48-year-old divorced father of three grown children, he lives in New Jersey and coaches in a youth league.
By John Valenti
With Ron Naclerio
Copyright © 1990, 2016 by John Valenti, III and Ronald Naclerio. From the forthcoming book SWEE’PEA: The Story of Lloyd Daniels and Other Playground Basketball Legends by John Valenti with Ron Naclerio to be published by Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission. (handout)
It had drained, crimson, into the corners of the torn and tattered shirt, as if it were trying to forever change the complexion of the fabric it had soaked through. Matted on the cloth and on the skin, it caked and congealed, gummy to the touch, and gave an eerie, surrealistic aura to the patient stretched out on the hospital gurney in the whitewashed emergency room.
Just 21, Lloyd Daniels — the man countless basketball scouts had once called the best professional prospect since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — clung to life by a thread ever so much thinner than the strand of a well-worn playground net.
Already he had lost six pints of blood. He was almost dead.
* * *
A recovering addict, Lloyd was struggling to stay out of trouble, stay clean. Already he had been through inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation three times in an effort to beat an alcohol and drug addiction that had cost him a possible basketball scholarship to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, as well as jobs as a pro with the Topeka Sizzlers in the minor-league Continental Basketball Association and a team called Waitemata in Auckland, New Zealand.
He had attended four high schools in three states before quitting his junior year at Andrew Jackson High School in Cambria Heights, Queens, without a diploma. His troubled academic past had caused teams to bypass him in the 1988 National Basketball Association Draft — despite not-so-subtle hints from a handful of general managers that he might be a first-round selection.
Although the word was that Lloyd had been blackballed by the league, folks who had seen him play understood if only he might prove he could be responsible for his actions, if only he could stay clean long enough to at least earn an invitation to free agent-rookie camp … a job was all but his. Rules were often bent for stars.
Lloyd Daniels (r.) played parts of seven seasons in the NBA. (Tony Bock/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
But Lloyd wasn’t thinking about the NBA by the time he returned home to the green, single-family row house his grandmother owned on 203rd Street in Hollis, Queens.
“Junior,” she said, sharply, warning the grandchild she’d always called Junior after his father, her eldest son, “if you don’t stop it, stop doin’ those drugs, you’re gonna get busted in the a–.
“You know that? You’ll get busted in the a–, the cops will pick you up, put you in Rikers Island, and you know you can’t deal with no Rikers Island.
“And you know you’re gonna be dead if you get shot.”
“Grandma,” Lloyd said. “Grandma, I ain’t doin’ that stuff no more.”
“You’d better not be,” she said.
But Lloyd, not too interested in her sage advice, had already turned his back on her and headed out to the kitchen.
Daniels played for the New Jersey Nets in the 1996-97 season. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
He still had that hunger. And, facing the temptation and feeling weak as any recovering addict could possibly feel surrounded by a neighborhood filled with the bad stuff, he was craving a hit.
Lloyd drank Olde English with his aunt, Sherry Baptiste, all the time wanting to get high. He fought his demons until around 2 a.m. then went out on the block and down around the corner of Francis Lewis. There he found a young kid, maybe 16 years old, selling crack.
Lloyd walked over to him and demanded his goods. When the kid refused, Lloyd, who’d done this several times before, beat the s–t out of him — and stole his crack, about a hundred dollars’ worth — before running off.
Angered, the kid and his partner, who was also some juvie wise-a–, decided to follow Lloyd home.
Lloyd returned to the house with the rock as well as the kind of company no man wants for friends, let alone enemies. Because no sooner had he closed the door than a white sedan arrived out front.
Two men got out of the car and stood at the front gate. Seeing them, Lloyd, who’d run inside to hide his crack vials, hide the rock, stepped outside to talk.
“Yo,” one man yelled as Lloyd stepped onto the lawn. “Gimme my stuff.”
Daniels played for the San Antonio Spurs during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. (Tom Smart/Getty Images)
“Ain’t got your stuff,” Lloyd yelled back. “Get out of here.”
“Yo,” the man said, again. “Gimme my stuff or the money. Don’t play.”
“I told you, man,” Lloyd said. “Ain’t got your stuff.”
The second man pulled out a gun and pointed it at Lloyd. With no money and too far from the door to make a safe run for it, Lloyd made yet another bad decision in a life filled with bad decisions.
He reached for the gun.
Bam! And his body recoiled with the shot.
Bam! And, again, his body recoiled with the shot.
Daniels warms up for a Nets game. (Herbert, Gerald)
Four or five times, no one seemed sure, the gun went off. Three times, for certain, its bullets struck Lloyd.
Soon after, word went round that there was a contract out on the shooters. In fact, when the triggerman found out whom he’d shot, he sent word through the grapevine.
“They said to say he was sorry,” a guy from the neighborhood said. “But you can’t change something that’s been done.”
“Hey, they shot Lloyd Daniels. They shot Swee’pea,” another said. “These guys had a better chance of living if they had shot a cop.”
* * *
Lloyd was asleep when Ron Naclerio, co-author and longtime basketball coach at Cardozo High School, went to visit after the shooting. He had tried to help Lloyd through the years.
“How’re you doin’?” he asked when Lloyd finally opened his eyes.
Lloyd Daniels in 1992.
“I don’t know, Ron,” Lloyd said in a bare whisper. “I don’t know.”
“You’re going to make it,” a nurse standing near the bed told Lloyd.
He tried to force a smile, but couldn’t.
“Ron,” he said, “I screwed up big-time. I’m lucky to be alive, ain’t I? I was real close. I almost died. Maybe God still wants to see me play.”
“God and the devil were fighting for you,” Ron said as Lloyd again tried to force a smile. “They were choosing up a game.”
On the table next to the hospital bed was a signed basketball from Brooklyn native Michael Jordan. “Get well, Lloyd. All my best, Michael Jordan,” it read. There were also letters and get-well cards, hundreds of them.
“You know,” Lloyd said, when asked about all the cards and letters, “people still love me. But God, he don’t like ugly … I keep gettin’ these lessons in life, but I ain’t never learned.
“I want to learn now.”
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News


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