"You sweat blood to beat four or five world-class players and hardly make anything," Delicious says. "When you're used to walking around with $10,000 in your pocket, it's tough." It wasn't until last year that he decided to become a full-time pro. The pay cut still stings, but every time Delicious beats a top player such as Johnny (the Scorpion) Archer, Buddy (the Rifleman) Hall or Earl Strickland, it validates his decision.
Ranked No. 11 in the UPA world standings as of Jan. 28, Delicious is a rising star. He was the UPA's 2004 rookie of the year, and he came in second at the UPA Pro Tour Championship, at The Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, where he lost 7--5 to Corey Deuel in the final on Jan. 9. Three weeks later Delicious took the 16th Ocean State 9-Ball Championship, in Providence, beating Steve Tavernier 9--4 for the $2,500 winner's purse.
Basavich is lending his name to a Kid Delicious cue, which will retail for $349, and appears in a series of instructional DVDs. He has hooked up with agent cum stakehorse Tom Dennehy, who underwrites his travel and tournament entry fees in exchange for a piece of the Kid's endorsements and DVDs. Introducing Delicious before a match in Toledo in November, the tournament emcee joked, "He'll be coming out with his own rap album any day now."
Success may have gone to Kid Delicious's midsection--his weight, he concedes, is at an alltime high, three bills and change--but not to his head. He has quickly become one of the most popular acts in pro pool's traveling caravan. "We're like a big family out here," he says. "You see the same people every week, so what's the use of making enemies?" A half hour before his matches in Toledo he was at the hotel restaurant, a cheeseburger in hand, telling stories and sweet-talking the waitress. After the meal he left a $15 tip on the $22 tab.
Not everyone has been won over. Delicious recently beat Strickland, a five-time world champion, 10--9 in a tense "hill-hill" (9--9) match and celebrated with a primal scream. Strickland, a temperamental genius known for his mind games, snarled at Delicious, "I hope you lose your next match."
But Strickland is in the decided minority. "The only guys who don't like Danny feel threatened by him," says McAninch. "He's just one of those people who lifts the mood of the whole room."
you'd never guess it once the matches start. A mask of concentration welded on his face, Delicious contemplates shots the way Jack Nicklaus sizes up putts, often taking minutes between strokes. With the sleeves of his flannel shirt rolled up, he wraps his left index finger around the cue and thrusts it with his right arm. The intense expression on his face doesn't much change whether he has missed an easy ball or sunk one of those no-way-in-hell shots.
"It's such a mental game that you have to develop a playing style you're comfortable with--like in any sport, I guess," he says. Then he smiles and pats that Falstaffian gut. "Remember, you're talking to a serious athlete."
His weight concerns him more than he lets on. He knows that he's a heart attack waiting to happen. He's also aware that there's a psychological dimension to his overeating. Dennehy recalls going to a restaurant with Delicious and watching him order more food than he could possibly eat. "What the hell are you doing, ordering like that, Danny?" Dennehy asked.