Monday 23 April 2018

Obituary: Darryl Dawkins

Called Chocolate Thunder, he was an explosive centre whose dunks shattered glass backboards

Court legend: Darryl Dawkins rocked the NBA league for 14 seasons, where he thrilled fans with his slam dunk antics
Court legend: Darryl Dawkins rocked the NBA league for 14 seasons, where he thrilled fans with his slam dunk antics

The basketball player Darryl Dawkins was known as "Chocolate Thunder", an epithet given to him by Stevie Wonder for his powerful slam-dunks and flamboyant personality.

He was an explosive centre whose dunks shattered two glass backboards in 1979, one of which he described as "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam".

In 1979 he smashed a backboard with a dunk in a game against the Kansas City Kings. Then a month later he shattered a backboard and pulled down the rim in the Philadelphia Spectrum during a game against the San Antonio Spurs.

Afterwards, the then-NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien informed Dawkins that every time he broke a backboard, he would owe the league $5,000.

In a 14-season NBA career he averaged 12 points, 6.1 assists and 1.4 blocks per game, statistics that were dwarfed by an outsized personality.

Always a fan favourite, Dawkins gave names to many of his dunks, such as "Dunk You Very Much", "Yo Mama", "Spine Chiller Supreme" and "In Your Face Disgrace".

Thanks to his high-flying game and his size and strength, the NBA was forced to adopt breakaway rims and impose fines and suspensions for breaking backboards during games. In 1975, the 6ft 11in Dawkins became the first player taken directly from high school in the first round of the NBA draft.

The Philadelphia 76ers selected Dawkins with their fifth overall pick and he went on to play with them for seven seasons before moving to the New Jersey Nets for five years. He played four games for the Utah Jazz in 1987-88 before ending his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons in the 1988-89 season.

Dawkins used to tell reporters that he was an alien from the planet Lovetron who spent the off-season practising "interplanetary funkmanship."

After leaving the NBA in 1989, he played two seasons in Italy and then joined the Harlem Globetrotters. After several coaching stints, he retired from basketball in 2000. But he remained visible at events like the NBA's All-Star Weekend, where he served as a judge of this year's Slam Dunk contest.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Dawkins "played the game with passion, integrity and joy, never forgetting how great an influence he had on his legions of fans, young and old."

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