HANG TIME BIG CITY — Darryl Dawkins, the supersized NBA big man with an even larger personality, died today at the age of 58, according to the New York Daily News.
In 1975, the 6-11 Dawkins was drafted directly out of high school in the Orlando area with the fifth overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers, making Dawkins the first prep-to-NBA player in history. He was athletic for a man his size, but his youth required a few years of development before he could play regularly. Dawkins broke into Philadelphia’s rotation in the 1977-78 season. As the Sixers, led by Julius “Dr. J” Erving, established themselves as contenders in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, Dawkins became a starter and established post presence.
In 1982, the Sixers traded Dawkins to the New Jersey Nets for a first-round pick, where in 1983-84 he averaged a career-high 16.8 points per game. After missing most of the 1986-87 season due to injuries, Dawkins had stints with the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons, but wasn’t able to stay healthy enough to contribute regularly. Dawkins played several seasons in Italy, and then a year with the Harlem Globetrotters before retiring.
Dawkins showed tantalizing flashes of brilliance, but struggled to sustain that type of brilliant play. This was perhaps best exemplified by Dawkins during 1979, when Dawkins broke backboards during slam dunks two different times. (He later claimed to have also broken two backboards in Italy.)
Dawkins seemed to have an innate understanding of the type of self-promotion that many players didn’t embrace until years later. Dawkins went by the nickname “Chocolate Thunder,” which was purportedly selected by Stevie Wonder, and Dawkins claimed to hail from the planet Lovetron. After shattering a backboard above Kansas City Kings forward Bill Robinzine, Dawkins named the dunk, “The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.”
In recent years, Dawkins dabbled in broadcasting and coached in several basketball minor leagues, and most recently coached at Lehigh Carbon Community College. He was also a fixture at the NBA’s annual All-Star Weekend events, always wearing vivid suits.
Those suits may have been colorful, but they could never match the personality of the man himself.