RENO, Nev. — Lovetron is now a distant world in a faded memory, and the interplanetary funkmanship of Chocolate Thunder has been in mothballs since the days of disco.
But the larger-than-life presence of Darryl Dawkins can still fill up an arena, even if there is less of it these days.
Credit zoomba, a popular and highly suggestive dance exercise that Dawkins says has enabled him to drop 50 pounds in the past 10 months.
“I always had the moves,” he said. “It was just time to use them to get rid of that extra size.”
Yet size, strength and aggressiveness are exactly what Dawkins — now a scout/consultant for both the 76ers and Nets — was hoping to see at the NBA D-League Showcase.
“The word that I got coming in here was that there were some big men who could play,” said Dawkins, who was 6-foot-11, 265 pounds when he jumped straight from high school as an 18-year-old to the Sixers in 1975. “My question is, when people say a big man can play these days, do they mean he’s out on the wing shooting jumpers like a ‘4’ or really playing the way a big man should?
“Look, I’m not running down the league or game in any way, but I think it would all be a lot better if we developed some big men who would take control of the lane on defense, take down all those little guards who want to drive through the lane, and would be able to finish on offense with dunks.”
It was, of course, the dunks that made Dawkins famous during his flamboyant 14-year NBA career. He rattled rims, bent imaginations and most notably brought down the house with his Chocolate Thunder Flyin’, Robinzine Cryin’, Teeth Shakin’, Glass-Breakin’, Rump Roastin’, Bun Toastin, Wham, Bam, Glass-Breaker I Am Jam that shattered the backboard at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium on Nov. 13, 1979.
“An accident, an old building, old rims, old glass,” he still insists with a sheepish grin.
Dawkins’ duties on Wednesday included serving as a judge for the Showcase Slam Dunk Contest.
“I’m telling these boys going in that they better not try to win without bringing something special,” he said. “I don’t go for plain dunks.”
Not when his repertoire included his self-named collection: Yo Mama, Spine Chiller Supreme, Rim Wrecker, Dunk You Very Much and Sexophonic Turbo Delight.
Dawkins, who’ll turn 56 on Friday, misses what he calls the days when the NBA was less about the business side and more about the simple fun. But it is the lack of dominant big men and the lack of consistent low post play that drives him crazy.
“I hear people saying that the game has changed,” he said. “Why’s that? Because big men grow up these days trying to just shoot like guards or small forwards. I watch teams like Miami where nobody has a real position and they’re able to win the championship. Look, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are great players. I’m not denying that.
“I listen to people say the game now is all about cutting and motion and moving — that’s getting back to the fundamentals. But I’m saying if you put guys like Moses Malone and Charles Barkley and Kevin McHale out there, you’re not just gonna dump that ball inside and beat everybody up to win games?
“Everybody’s here at the Showcase looking for talent. I want to see big men, the old-fashioned kind.”