Former Norfolk State basketball star and streetball legend Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland was honored with a proclamation from the City of Norfolk.
Kirkland was recently recognized by the city for his work over the past 40 years that positively impact the lives of young people.
“It means everything. This is why I do it. Young people all over the country respect the name Pee Wee Kirkland,” he said. … “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.”
Kirkland, was an all-city guard at Charles Evans Hughes High School in Manhattan, New York. His play earned him a scholarship at historically black Kittrell College in Tarboro, North Carolina, where Kirkland averaged 40 points per contest.
After his time at Kittrell, Kirkland would make his way to Norfolk State where he and future Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Dandridge helped the Spartans win the 1968 CIAA crown.
Kirkland was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1969 but his time in the NBA cut short when a disagreement over paying time with-then Bulls head coach Dick Motta led Kirkland to return to New York.
It was during this time that Kirkland solidified himself as a street basketball legend, competing in the famed Rucker Pro League. He more than holding his own against the likes of Connie Hawkins, Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond, and Julius Irving.
Kirkland would run later spend over a decade in prison for drug-related conspiracy charges and tax evasion.
Once out of prison, Kirkland decided he wanted to positively impact the children of Harlem. With assistance from Nike, he established the “School of Skills,” a campaign that focuses on basketball and life skills that has grown into a national campaign.
He also served as a coach, winning championships at the Dwight School in New York and also is a motivational speaker, sharing his story to young people to help them avoid the pitfalls that ensnared him.
Kirkland was also inducted into the American Basketball Hall of Fame as part of its 2022 class.
In a 1997 New York Times article, the former street ball legend reflected on his journey.
“Thirty years ago, I was part of the problem. Thirty years later, I’m part of the solution,” he said.