Darryl Dawkins

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Darryl Dawkins
NBA Nation @ CityWalk 037.JPG
Dawkins in 2009
Personal information
Born (1957-01-11)January 11, 1957
Orlando, Florida
Died August 27, 2015(2015-08-27) (aged 58)
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)
Listed weight 251 lb (114 kg)
Career information
High school Maynard Evans (Orlando, Florida)
NBA draft 1975 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5th overall
Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers
Pro career 1975–2000
Position Center
Number 53, 45, 50
Career history
19751982 Philadelphia 76ers
19821987 New Jersey Nets
1987 Utah Jazz
19871989 Detroit Pistons
1989–1991 Auxilium Torino (Italy)
1991–1992 Olimpia Philips Milano (Italy)
1992–1994 Libertas Forlì (Italy)
1994–1995 Harlem Globetrotters
1995–1996 Sioux Falls Skyforce (CBA)
1999–2000 Winnipeg Cyclone (IBA)
Career NBA statistics
Points 8,733 (12.0 ppg)
Rebounds 4,432 (6.1 rpg)
Blocks 1,023 (1.4 bpg)

Darryl Dawkins (January 11, 1957 – August 27, 2015) was an American professional basketball player, most noted for his days with the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, although he also played briefly for the Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz late in his career. His nickname, "Chocolate Thunder", was bestowed upon him by Stevie Wonder.[1] He was known for his powerful dunks, which led to the NBA adopting breakaway rims due to his shattering the backboard on two occasions in 1979.[2]

Dawkins averaged double figures in scoring nine times in his 14 years in the NBA, often ranking among the league leaders in field-goal percentage. He also played in the NBA Finals three times as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. On the flip side, Dawkins set an NBA record for fouls in a season (386 in 1983–84), and he never quite lived up to the expectations that had been heaped upon him when he was drafted out of high school.

High school career[edit]

At Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, Dawkins was "probably the best high school basketball player ever and one of the best people I ever met," his prep coach, Fred Pennington, told Inside Sports. The team won the state championship in 1975, a year after the ABA's Utah Stars had plucked Moses Malone right out of Petersburg (Virginia) High School.

NBA career[edit]

Hoping to follow in Malone's footsteps, the 18-year-old Dawkins renounced his college eligibility and applied for the 1975 NBA draft as a hardship candidate. The Philadelphia 76ers made him the fifth overall pick, behind David Thompson, David Meyers, Marvin Webster, and Alvan Adams. According to the New York Daily News, when Dawkins made his debut with the 76ers, New York Knicks guard Walt Frazier took one look and said, "I bet his teachers called him 'Mr. Darryl.'"

With his size, speed, and touch, Dawkins was expected to take over the league. But he handled the expectations in typical fashion. "When I walked into the league, they wanted me to be Wilt Chamberlain right away—without one minute of college ball," he told The Daily News. "I can't be Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt is much taller than me."

A raw talent who needed time to develop, Dawkins languished on the Sixers' bench for his first two seasons. As a rookie in 1975–76 he played in only 37 games, averaging 2.4 points in 4.5 minutes per game. The next year he played a limited role during the regular season but began to emerge during the playoffs. The Sixers advanced all the way to the NBA Finals that year, and Dawkins was called upon to help battle Portland's Bill Walton. The Trail Blazers won the series in six games, but Dawkins earned respect among the Philadelphia coaching staff with 7.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest in the postseason.

In the 1977–78 season Dawkins finally found a regular role, coming off the bench for nearly 25 minutes per game. Now a robust 20 years old, he averaged 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds and ranked second in the league in field-goal percentage at .575. With a club that included Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Lloyd Free, and Doug Collins, the Sixers made another solid postseason run, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Washington Bullets in six games.

Prior to the 1978–79 season Philadelphia traded McGinnis to the Denver Nuggets for Bobby Jones and Ralph Simpson. The move was made in part to clear space for Dawkins on the Sixers' front line, which also included 6-foot-11 Caldwell Jones. Over the next three seasons Dawkins and Caldwell Jones split time at the center and power forward positions, and Dawkins had the most productive stretch of his career. In 1979–80 he averaged 14.7 points and a career-high 8.7 rebounds, helping the Sixers back to the NBA Finals, which they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

In a game against the Kansas City Kings at Municipal Auditorium on November 13, 1979, Dawkins threw down such a massive dunk that the backboard shattered, sending the Kings' Bill Robinzine ducking. Three weeks later he did it again, this time at home against the San Antonio Spurs at the Spectrum. A few days after that the NBA ruled that breaking a backboard was an offense that would result in a fine and suspension.

Dawkins named the first backboard-breaking dunk "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam."[3]

He named other dunks as well: the Rim Wrecker, the Go-Rilla, the Look Out Below, the In-Your-Face Disgrace, the Cover Your Head, the Yo-Mama, the Spine-Chiller Supreme, and the Greyhound Special (for the rare occasions when he went coast to coast). The 76ers also kept a separate column on the stat sheet for Dawkins’s self-created nicknames: "Sir Slam", "Dr. Dunkenstein", and "Chocolate Thunder."

At one point, Dawkins claimed to be an alien from the planet Lovetron, where he spent the off-season practicing "interplanetary funkmanship" and where his girlfriend Juicy Lucy lived.[4]

Postseason disappointments[edit]

In the 1981 season Dawkins produced a .607 field-goal percentage, second in the NBA to Artis Gilmore's .670. Dawkins averaged 14 points and 7.2 rebounds for the year, but Philadelphia failed to return to the Finals. The club met the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals and lost in seven games.

The 76ers suffered another postseason disappointment in 1982 when they reached the Finals but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games. Frustrated with the team's inability to handle Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sixers management began to shake up the center position. First Philadelphia traded Dawkins, who missed nearly half of the 1981–82 season campaign with injuries, to the New Jersey Nets for a first-round draft pick. The Sixers then sent Caldwell Jones and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Moses Malone who would help to capture the NBA title for Philadelphia the following year.

Injury-plagued final seasons[edit]

At age 25, Dawkins joined a Nets club that included Albert King, Buck Williams, and Otis Birdsong. He had two productive seasons in a Nets uniform, but injuries severely impacted the rest of his career. In the 1982–83 season Dawkins averaged 12.0 points and shot .599 from the floor, ranking third in the league in field-goal percentage behind Gilmore and Steve Johnson. The next season, he poured in a career-high 16.8 points per game on .593 field-goal shooting and grabbed 6.7 rebounds per contest. Dawkins also set a dubious NBA record that year when he committed 386 personal fouls for the season.[5] He committed one more personal foul during his career than Michael Jordan, despite playing nearly 350 fewer games.[5]

The 1983–84 campaign was Dawkins' last full season. Injuries limited him to 39 games in 1984–85. Midway through the 1985–86 season, he slipped in his bathtub and injured his back. At the time, Dawkins was averaging 15.3 points and shooting .644 from the floor, but the injury sidelined him for 31 of the Nets' final 32 games. Dawkins tried to come back over the next three seasons with the Nets, the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons, but back problems limited him to 26 games during those seasons. He attempted a comeback in 1994, attending Denver Nuggets training camp, and again in 1995 with the Boston Celtics. Dawkins also spent several seasons overseas after his NBA career, playing in the Italian league for Torino, Olimpia Milano and Telemarket Forli.

Post-NBA career[edit]

Following his NBA career, Dawkins had a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters, followed by a season spent with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the Continental Basketball Association in 1995–1996. During this season, the Skyforce's games against the Florida Beach Dogs were broadcast nationally by ESPN, as the Beach Dogs included another former NBA player, Manute Bol. In 2005, Dawkins was one of several former NBA players to audition for an analyst position with ESPN, as part of the network's reality series Dream Job.

He was the head coach of the American Basketball Association's Newark Express. He was also the player/coach of the Winnipeg Cyclone, a team in the short-lived International Basketball Association in 1999-2000.

He was the head coach of the Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs of the United States Basketball League until they folded.

On August 20, 2009, Lehigh Carbon Community College (located in Schnecksville, PA) announced that Dawkins would be the head coach of their men's basketball team for the upcoming 2009–2010 season.

Personal life[edit]

Dawkins' autobiography Chocolate Thunder: The Uncensored Life and Times of Darryl Dawkins (co-authored with Charley Rosen)[6] chronicles his on- and off-the-court life as an NBA star. In the book, Dawkins chronicled some of the racism he encountered during his NBA career, playing alongside 76ers superstar Julius Erving, and his off-the-court experiences with drugs, partying and women.

In September 1986, Dawkins eloped with Kelly Barnes of Trenton, New Jersey.[7] The following autumn, the two were planning to divorce when she committed suicide on November 1, 1987, at her parents' home in New Jersey; Darryl was in Utah with his team at the time.[7] In 1988 Dawkins married a former Nets cheerleader, Robbin Thornton; they divorced after 10 years.[8] Dawkins later remarried; he and his wife, Janice, had three children: Nick, Alexis, and Tabitha, a daughter from Janice's previous relationship [9] who has Down syndrome.[8]

Dawkins appears in NBA Ballers and the NBA 2K video games as a reserve member of the 1980s Legends East Team. In 1999, Saturday Night Live named Dawkins the "Man of the Millennium" in a Weekend Update sketch.[10]


Dawkins died on August 27, 2015, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, at the age of 58. The Lehigh County coroner's office announced that an autopsy would be performed on August 27; but according to a statement released by Dawkins' family, the cause of death was a heart attack.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'Chocolate Thunder' name came from Stevie Wonder". Eye on Basketball. CBS Sports. August 6, 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2012. 
  2. ^ Broussard, Chris (February 15, 2004). "A Game Played Above the Rim, Above All Else". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Darryl Dawkins shatters... on YouTube[dead link]
  4. ^ Karabell, Eric (2008). "66: Center: Wilt Chamberlain". Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Fans. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 212. ISBN 1402248040. 
  5. ^ a b NBA & ABA Single Season Leaders and Records for Personal Fouls at basketball-reference.com
  6. ^ Chocolate Thunder profile at sportclassicbooks.com
  7. ^ a b Heine, Kurt (November 3, 1987). "Kelly Dawkins' Death Called Apparent Suicide". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Friend, Tom. "Old College Try". Outside The Lines (ESPN.com). Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  9. ^ Hayes, Marcus (January 25, 2010). "Darryl Dawkins: To Lehigh Carbon Community College, by way of Planet Lovetron". Schnecksville, Pennsylvania: philly.com. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  10. ^ Weekend Update transcript, JT.org
  11. ^ "Darryl Dawkins dies at age 58". ESPN.go.com. Retrieved August 27, 2015. 

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