The Legend of Swee’Pea

Sometimes sports gives us heroes while others are just regular people. People with flaws and struggles. Such is the case with basketball player Lloyd “Swee’Pea” Daniels. He had all the talent in the world. Became a legend on the courts of New York City, the center of the basketball world. Then due to dubious behaviour and addiction issues never really was able to translate that talent into a successful NBA career.

There are a certain amount of pressures put on a young person when they have been deemed the next Magic Johnson as Lloyd Daniels was. Expectations are heaped on someone with very little life experience. There are more stories of those who could not handle the pressure than there are of success stories like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Most cave under the pressure.

As a young player it was apparent to everyone who saw him that Daniels possessed superiour talent. He was a point guard who possessed height and passing skills like precious few others. Big things were said to be waiting for him as he was ready for college and the pros in the late 1980s. He signed to play at UNLV despite never having completed high school with the run and gun teams of Coach Tarkanian. But before he even got to play things went off the rails due to a drug bust.

By the age of 21 all that promise was gone. Gone in a moment. But actually it wasn’t a moment; it was due to a series of bad choices which led to him being shot in the chest three times over $8 of cocaine. Another case of wasted opportunity. Daniels pissed away millions. Lost a future which could have made him and future generations comfortable financially. All due to poor choices and addiction issues. Unfortunately this is a common story.

Even after being shot he was able miraculously to make a comeback. He got married to a very supportive woman and went through rehab. Able to be signed into the NBA. Able to play on the San Antonio Spurs team with David Robinson. After some initial success his demons took hold of him once again. He became a journeyman with teams intrigued by his talent/potential and then realized what an unstable person he was so moved on. Daniels played for the Sixers, Raptors and three other teams over the course of six seasons. He was forced to leave the league just before he had played enough games to earn himself a lifelong pension.

Most of the story of Daniels is told by himself. He loves to talk. Especially about himself. Now middle aged, he goes over his entire life. Telling us how things were tough for him and life seemed to be against him. Now, divorced from his wife, he spends some of his time coaching high school basketball. Seems to want to fight his addictions, but not sure he is completely successful.

Watching the film and listening to the man himself talking, you do see how charismatic he is. How he probably got away with all that he did. Plus the talent he possessed. People wanted him to work out. He never really did though. Addiction is a beast. There is even a part in the 80 minute documentary where there are audio recordings of Daniels phoning director Benjamin May repetitively asking for money. With each call he becomes more desperate then agitated then finally aggressive. His own worst enemy even these many years later. Some things never change. Another to add to the already large piles of cautionary tales within the sport world.

The film is available on digital and VOD.

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