Nickey Maxwell Van Exel, 22, received the punishment after his father wept on the witness stand and apologized to the family of the victim, Bradley Bassey Eyo. The same jury in Dallas County in North Texas found the younger Van Exel guilty of murder on Thursday.
Prosecutors had sought a capital murder conviction.
Nickey Van Exel fatally shot Eyo in December 2010 and dumped his body at Lake Ray Hubbard on the eastern outskirts of Dallas. His attorney had said the two were playing with a shotgun at Nickey Van Exel's Garland home and that Van Exel didn't know the gun was loaded.
Nick Van Excel, who played 13 seasons in the NBA including a stint with the Dallas Mavericks and is now a player development instructor for the Atlanta Hawks, testified about the happy times he and his son spent together, including with Eyo.
He recalled the time that he took his son and Eyo to a 2006 NBA Finals game in Miami between the Heat and the Mavericks.
"And they were about the only guys there cheering for the Dallas Mavericks," he said. "It's dangerous when you go to an arena cheering for the other team."
The elder Van Exel broke down at one point while speaking in court. He then apologized to Eyo's family.
"I'm really sorry to the Eyo family. Nobody should have to go through something like this. Nobody," he said, as he looked at Eyo's family members who were in the courtroom.They said the younger Van Exel shot his friend with a 12-gauge shotgun as retaliation because Eyo, 23, planned to “snitch” about robberies they committed together in Houston earlier in 2010. Eyo was charged in connection with the robberies, but Van Exel wasn’t because police lacked evidence against him.
Eyo pleaded guilty and was expected to detail the crimes to Harris County authorities at a sentencing hearing. He died 10 days before that hearing.Image of Van Exel in court:Update at 11:51 a.m.: Prosecutors apparently discovered this morning that a rap music video tribute to Nickey Van Exel was posted yesterday, the same day he was convicted of murder in the slaying of his friend.
There was some private discussion about the video among the attorneys, but it was not played for the jury during the ongoing punishment phase of the trial. It appears that within minutes of that discussion, the video was pulled off of YouTube.
The song contained a lot of explicit and potentially offensive language, so there isn’t a whole lot I can post here. But it railed against “snitching” on the stand and referenced the gang of which Van Exel is said to be a member. It included this opening:
I dedicate this to my brother
I swear life f—-d up and I feel like throwing in the towel
Cause I got a brother on a murder trial
I got a brother on a murder trial
And I may not see my brother for awhile
I used to like the guy back when he played in LA, up until I found out all the crap hes done throughout his career but no one deserves this.