American professional basketball player Darryl Dawkins passed away Thursday from heart failure, he was fifty-eight years old. Best known for his glass shattering dunks during his playing days with the Philadelphia 76ers and amazing athletic ability for a six foot eleven center. Dawkins played in Italy and as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters after his career in the NBA (National Basketball Association) ended in 1989. He officially retired from the sport as a head coach/player with the Winnipeg Cyclones of the IBA (International Basketball Association) after the 1999-2000 season.
Born on January 11, 1957 in Orlando, Florida; Darryl Dawkins was a naturally gifted athlete who was highly sought by professional and college scouts after leading his high school Maynard Evans to a State Championship in 1975. He entered the 1975 NBA Draft as a high school senior and was the fifth pick in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers. The franchise had high hopes for the young Dawkins, expecting him to be the next Wilt Chamberlin. For the first two years as a member of the 76ers, he spent most of his time learning and developing as a player given his young age and raw talent.
Darryl Dawkins in his third year with the 76ers became a role player and valuable contributor to the club and averaged eleven points and eight rebounds coming off of the bench. Playing along side “Dr. J” Julius Irving, the 76ers went the playoffs every year during his tenure with he club including three trips to the NBA Finals. Dawkins would become a part of American pop culture during the 1979-1980 season due to his glass shattering dunks, earning him the nicknamed bestowed upon him by Steve Wonder “Chocolate Thunder” and the self titled “Dr. Dunkenstein” and “Sir Slam.” Because of the rim breaking dunks, the NBA brought in breakaway rims the following season along with hefty fines for intentionally breaking them.
Dawkins was traded to the New Jersey Nets before 1982-1983 season for a first round pick after the front office reconfigured the team to be able to defeat the Los Angles Lakers who defeated them in the 1981-1982 NBA Finals. The often injured center rejuvenated his career with the Nets and was becoming the superstar that many projected him to be before injuries permanently sidetracked him. Darryl Dawkins played for a Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons and tried out for a few more NBA clubs before finishing his career overseas and as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Minor league basketball clubs Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Winnipeg Cyclones brought him in as a novelty act to bring nostalgic fans to see the legendary “Chocolate Thunder” in action.
Darryl Dawkins was a unique and colorful player who brought individualism and fun into the NBA. His posterizing dunks and glass shattering jams became a fixture in a American pop culture along with being on the wall of many teenage boys. For more information about Darryl Dawkins please visit these sites Basketball Reference, Wikipedia, ESPN, CBS Sports and WFMZ.