There was a long line of people outside of Vine Memorial Baptist Church at 56th Street and Girard Avenue who came to pay their final respects to Philadelphia basketball legend Lewis Lloyd on Saturday morning. Lloyd, who starred at Overbrook High School, New Mexico Military Institute, Drake University and the NBA, had a huge homegoing service that attracted fans, former players and people from around the city.
Lloyd was a sensational basketball player. He was really smooth on the court. He played the game with style and grace. He could score 20 points without hardly breaking a sweat.
As a scholastic standout, he played during a great era for high school basketball in the city. In 1977, he was named first team All Public League. Lloyd averaged 21.6 points a game that year. On the All-Public League team were some fantastic players such as Gene Banks, Darryl Warwick and Clarence “Eggy” Tillman from West Philadelphia High and Jeffery Clark from Frankford.
Clark, a terrific player at Frankford who later starred at St. Joseph’s University, came to the services. He remembers how great a basketball player Lloyd was during his high school years.
“I’m just glad to be a part of Lew’s life,” said Clark, who is now one of the top college basketball officials in the country. “Every time I played with Lew in an all-star game we never lost. So that tells you what it is. He’s going to be sorely missed. I just appreciate him and what he gave back to the community.”
After his high school career, Lloyd played two years of junior college basketball at New Mexico Military Institute from 1977-79. In his freshman year, he averaged 26.4 points a game. The following season he tallied 31 points a game. He was one of the best junior college players in the nation.
Lloyd completed his two years in junior college and transferred to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he continued to elevate his game. He averaged 30.2 points and 15 rebounds a game his first season. He averaged 26.3 points a game his final college season. He was named Player of the Year twice in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Horace Owens has vivid memories of his college career. Owens, a former All-Public League standout at Dobbins, was a magnificent basketball player at the University of Rhode Island. He remembers seeing Lloyd play in a major college basketball tournament.
“He’s a great person,” said Owens, who is a member of La Salle University’s basketball staff as a special assistant to the head coach. “The funny thing is I can remember I’ll say 1980 we where in Iowa and played in the Far West Classic. He played with Drake. Seeing Lew in Portland, Oregon he’s always the same. It was the who’s who. Utah was loaded. Arizona State was loaded. I told them the best player just walked in and that was Lew. Utah was ranked 10th in the country. They had Pace Mannion and Tom Chambers. Lew gave them a soft 45 and beat the No. 10 team in the country.”
In 1981, Lloyd was a fourth-round pick of the Golden State Warriors. He played with the Warriors from 1981-83. He had his best NBA seasons playing for the Houston Rockets from 1983-87. In 1984, he averaged 17.8 points a game. However, Lloyd helped the Rockets get to the NBA Finals during the 1985-86 season. That Houston team had NBA legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. During the summer months, Lloyd stayed in the top condition by playing in the Charles Baker League.
“We played on the same Baker League team,” said Gordy Bryan, former Virginia Tech star, who played in the Baker League. “We played for Vic Snyder’s Plumbing. We won a few games down there [Temple’s McGonigle Hall]. I was a shooter. Lew was a distributor, but somehow always got 40 no matter what. To remember him, he was just a joy to be around.”
Lloyd nicknamed “Black Magic” finished his NBA career in 1990 following two games with the Philadelphia 76ers. After pro career, he worked at basketball clinics and had his own vending business on 52nd Street near Lancaster Avenue. Lloyd died on July 3. He was 60.
“My brother, my friend, I got to know him later in life,” said Maurice “Mo” Howard, former St. Joseph’s Prep, Maryland and NBA standout. “I got to know him later in life. We hardly talked about basketball. We talked about what we were going to do as men in our next move. We had serious conversations about how we were going to live and about how we can make things better for our young people. He’s a good man and I’m going to miss him.”