Thaddeus Fleeton is nicknamed “The Beast” because of his offensive low-post game and his intense physicality defensively.
He is, arguably, one of the best undersized big men that I’ve seen in my 25 years inside CDCR.
He was born in Mobile, Ala., and came to San Francisco in 1965 at the age of two.
Thad had to work his way down from higher security levels to reach the Q, while others have come straight to San Quentin without spending time at the higher security designations, where violence is a way of life, Thad has spent time on some of the most violent and racially volatile facilities in the state, but as you’re about to discover, that didn’t change who he is at his core.
AT: You – like many of us – came into the system when learning self-discipline was a matter of life and death; how did you transfer those lessons over to basketball?
TF: Well, first it was know- ing my surroundings, who I’m playing against. Keeping in mind that at any moment, a foul could easily turn into an assault..
AT: Did you play ball on the higher levels as well?
TF: Yeah, at New & Old Folsom, Calaptaria Corcoran, Salinas Valley and Kern Valley. All Level IV’s.
AT: I heard that you are a boxer; talk about the sweet science and how you got in- volved.
TF: When I was seven, I had made a clay ashtray for my father at school. On the way home, A 15-year-old dude took my ashtray. I tried to fight him, but he was too big. I went home to my pops and my uncle — who had just returned from Vietnam — and asked them to teach me how to fight bigger guys. The next year, a 12-year-old boy slapped my sister and I beat the crap out of him. My dad then walked me over to the
Boys Club and introduced me to Sonny Carter and Johnny Keys –two ex-pro fighters. I fell in love with the road work and structure; however, I struggled with the discipline. They stayed in my ear and eventually I went to the Junior Golden Gloves in 1979.
AT: What happened after that? Seems like you were moving in the right direction at this point.
TF: I was, but at the same time I was gaining a rep as a street fighter. So the struggle became do I want to fight in the ring or the street? I saw the boxing circuit, the fight- ers with the clothes, money, cars and all that, and I wanted it. But, it was taking too long so I wanted a shortcut, which took me to street fighting.
AT: Wait, let’s go back to your sister; tell me about what your parents told you and how that took you to be- ing a street fighter.
TF: My parents told me to protect the females. Yet, I took it a step further: I protected them, the nerds and even the boys that couldn’t fight. That eventually led me to getting paid to beat people up, protecting my neighborhood. I didn’t ask for money though. I was getting paid with food, which built up trust in the neighborhood for me. When I did do wrong, the neighborhood would protect me from law enforcement. Also, I had went to the local stores and told them, “What if I can stop people from stealing outta your store? You don’t have to pay me nothing, just hide me from the police if I need it.” And they did it. Now that I reflect back, this is how I how I developed my criminal think- ing and behavior.
AT: I think everyone can appreciate how honest you are. Okay, you’ve been with the SQ Kings, barring inju- ries, since your arrival. How has playing against outside competition helped you de- velop holistically?
TF: It helps me realize that I have a worth beyond the crime that brought me here.
That I am somebody. That they see me now, as the man I’ve become, not who I was.
AT: Is it safe to say that you have formed some solid associations and friendships with the guys that come inside to compete?
TF: Most definitely.
AT: During this past 2019 season, you suspended yourself for a couple of games. I don’t want to talk about the situation that caused it but more to why you felt that you needed to sit yourself down rather than waiting for the coaching staff to do it?
TF: I place myself in a position as a leader, so that means my responsibilities are more than others. My peers see me a certain way, so I had to hold myself account- able. If I don’t, then I’m like everyone else that wants a title but not the responsibility that goes with the title. And, to be honest? It felt good to stand up and say to everyone “I was wrong, so I’m going to sit myself down and hold myself accountable.”
AT: You’re definitely on point about people with titles who don’t want the responsibilities of the title.
TF: That’s right.
AT: All right, I’m going to mention a name and you say the first word that comes to mind.
TF: All right.
Ryan ‘The Rifleman’ Steer: Good person, damn good ball player. Cynthia Cooper: Angel. Will ‘2-Piece’ Wheatly: Close friend. Draymond Green: Beast! LeBron James: Versatile. Joe Montana: Legendary. Old Man Basketball: festive. Lisa Leslie: Beautiful. Steph Curry: Awesome. Bill Epling: Special. Bob Myers: Great!
AT: Okay, it’s Black History Month, so let’s do something a little different. Who are your top three iconic figures in Black History?
TF: Muhammad Ali, he spoke up at a time when we all couldn’t. President Barack Obama, he walked the walk and talked the talk. He showed America and the world that Black people aren’t just athletes and entertainers, that we are also academic and esoteric when it comes to worldwide leadership. Harriet Tubman, ‘Mama Moses’, she was brave and smart. She put a plan together and went forward, in spite of the times.
AT: Tell the people – in- side and out – who Thad is:
TF: I’m a family man. I’m glad that I listened to people throughout the years of this journey in here; you can find diamonds in a pile of s—t. But it helped to carve and shape me into the positive person that I am today.
AT: Thank you for taking some time to talk with me, and Happy Black History Month. You get the last statement.
TF: Thank you to every- one for taking time with me–inside and out–andI wish for peace on earth, believe that.