Lewis Lloyd, a talented shooting guard whose basketball career took him from Philadelphia to New Mexico Military Institute to Drake University to the NBA, died last Friday. He was 60.
Lloyd rose in national prominence while at Drake, a Missouri Valley Conference school. He earned MVC Player of the Year accolades in 1980 and ’81. He averaged 30.2 points and 15 rebounds a game as a junior, finishing second in the NCAA in both categories. He then closed out his college career by posting averages of 26.3 and 10. He was named an Associated Press Third Team All-American both seasons.
Lloyd was the 76th overall pick (fourth round; Golden State Warriors) in the 1981 NBA Draft).
In the NBA, Lloyd, a former Overbrook High School player (just like Wilt Chamberlain) suited up for the Warriors, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged 13.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 388 regular-season games.
Lloyd, known as “Black Magic,” averaged a career-best 17.8 points for the Rockets in 1983-84. Two seasons later, he contributed 16.9 for Houston, which advanced to the NBA Finals and lost to the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics. He had a career-high 38 points on 15-for-23 shooting against the host Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 17, 1985.
A Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office spokesman determined that Lloyd died from an accidental “drug intoxication,” the Des Moines Register reported.
Lewis Lloyd’s pro career was derailed by a drug suspension after testing positive for cocaine. He was banned from the league for 2 1/2 years in 1986. He was reinstated in September 1989.
During his ban, he played in the United States Basketball League for the Philadelphia Aces in 1988 and for the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association’s Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets in 1988-89 before the NBA reinstated him.
Lloyd appeared in a combined 21 games (3.3 points) with the Sixers and Rockets in the 1989-90 season, his last in the NBA.
Throughout his NBA career, he had a knack for making more shots than he missed. He shot 52.4 percent from the field during his time in the NBA.
The Philadelphia Tribune recounted Lloyd’s reputation as an basketball star in his hometown and beyond in an article posted on its website after his death.
“Many have lauded him as one of the greatest playground players of all time, and his name is mentioned in several books on basketball,” Daryl Bell wrote.
“In high school, the Public League basketball championship was usually decided between the Overbrook High Panthers featuring Lloyd and the West Philadelphia High Speedboys featuring Gene Banks. The games were fierce and legendary.”
Former teammate’s insights
The Tribune obituary was enriched by Banks’ insights on Lloyd.
“It was like Ali and Frazier,” said Banks, another former Drake and NBA player, told the newspaper. “He definitely brought out the best in me. You couldn’t play around with Lew.
“This is really hard. I’m so sorry to hear this. My heart goes out to his family during this difficult time. I always thought that one day we would be able to sit back on a porch, drink lemonade, and talk about the games we played against each other. This is difficult.”
Whether competing in playground games or in organized contests during his career, Lloyd was an impressive talent.
Just ask Ron Angell, one of Lloyd’s Drake teammates.
“Offensively, he was really just unstoppable,” Angell told the Des Moines Register. “And he had a bigger body in college than he did in the pros. I would compare it to more of a Charles Barkley body.”
He was ‘special’
Ex-Overbrook High teammate Ricky Tucker also reflected on Lloyd’s talent and personality in an interview with The Tribune.
“Lew was special,” Tucker told The Tribune.
“Lew and I put in a lot of work all over the city and up and down the East Coast,” Tucker said, referring to rec teams. “He was an intelligent player. In my opinion, he was the most electric and exciting player ever from Philadelphia. He could do it all and he always had that smile on his face.
“He was doing so well and never had a bad word to say about anyone. Never. That was the kind of man he was. He would do anything to help you.”
In its remembrance of Lewis Lloyd, the Des Moines Register, which routinely reports on Drake University, also included this one-of-a-kind story:
“The day after the Drake men’s basketball team won at No. 18 Georgetown back in 1980, the Bulldogs gathered at the White House for a special tour. Prominent Des Moines attorney Jerry Crawford, the team’s radio announcer that season, had used his political connections to land the team a visit.
“As the Bulldogs stood in an entryway of the White House, President Jimmy Carter walked in, Crawford recalls. He introduced himself to every coach and player on the team, shaking hands and greeting them one by one. When President Carter got to Drake star Lewis Lloyd, a memorable moment unfolded.
” ‘He shook Lewis Lloyd’s hand and Lewis said, ‘They call me ‘the magic man,” Crawford recalled. “And the president got a kick out of it. And his teammates just collapsed in laughter.”
Reaction to his death
In the days since Lewis Lloyd passed away, a Wichita State online forum has collected tributes to him. Here are two of them:
“Lewis Lloyd, Drake great, has died at age 60. For those of you too young to know, he was a lovable, always-smiling absolutely unstoppable pain in the ass. Had games of 43 pts. and 12 rebounds, and 31 and 19 against us. Think Goudlock, but better. RIP, sir. “
“What a player. A poor man’s Xavier McDaniel. Tough as freaking nails and never quit. Would have been a tremendous Play Angry guy. Very sad news and way too young to see Black Magic pass.”