Reports are streaming out that Sixers legend Darryl Dawkins passed away today at the far-too-young age of 58. Chocolate Thunder, as most Sixers fans likely know him, was by far one of the most likable and entertaining Sixers legends, and he will be sorely missed by the franchise and fans.
Dawkins was the first ever high schooler drafted directly into the NBA, going 5th overall in the 1975 NBA draft. He was primarily known for his insane dunks and eccentric personality (check him out on the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons at the All-Star Game this past year, a must listen). The man gave names to his dunks! "The Rim Wrecker," "The Yo Mama," and "The Spine Chiller Supreme" have rattled more rims than one can count. Dawkins, somewhat notorious for breaking a few backboards in his day, dubbed one particularly infamous backboard destroying dunk "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam." Dawkins liked to claim he was an alien from the Planet Lovetron, so I don't need to continue explaining to you how awesome he was.
While his flashy dunks and absurd personality got him recognition, don't think for a second that Dawkins couldn't hoop. He only averaged more than 30mpg one season in his career, but he often saw his minutes and scoring increase in the playoffs when it really mattered. He went to 3 NBA finals with the Sixers, tasked each time to defend legendary centers such as Walton and Kareem and doing a damn good job of it. Do yourself a favor and watch some of that 1980 finals against the Lakers when its on NBAtv. Dawkins totally carries the team for long stretches at a time against a great L.A. squad, showing toughness and scoring savvy that is often forgotten in all the Lovetron-talk.
After his NBA career, Dawkins played for a the Globetrotters for a stint and also held a variety of coaching jobs. One of those gigs was as the head coach of the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs, a team in the United States Basketball League for which Randy Moss infamously played for for a brief stint. I actually went to a ValleyDawgs game one time up at Lehigh College. The atmosphere was so lax that after the game, fans milled about on the court shooting around with the players and I found myself at the top of the arc, ball in hand, with Chocolate Thunder standing over me. He looked at the rim and back at me and said "Alright young man, let's see it." I promptly air balled the 3, completely succumbing to nerves brought on by the Sixers legend. He patted me on the back and said "Needs some work" and then meandered off.
Truly awful news, thoughts and prayers out to Darryl's family.