Like many of you in the sports world, I’m going to miss Darryl Dawkins and his effervescent smile and engaging personality.
During the numerous conversations I had with Dawkins over the years, it was crystal clear that he was the life of the party and a man who could control a room with his many funny stories. Sadly, Dawkins’ life was cut short Thursday when he died of an apparent heart attack in Allentown, PA, at the age of 58.
Dawkins, who played seven of his 14-year career with the Philadelphia 76ers, was affectionately known as the player who nicknamed his favorite dunks, and for shattering backboards. Soon after he sent Kansas City’s Bill Robinzine running for cover after a dunk shattered the backboard during a Nov. 13, 1979 game against the Kings, Dawkins named the dunk "Chocolate Thunder Flying, Robinzine Crying, Teeth Shaking, Glass Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Wham Bam, Glass Breaker, I Am Jam.’’
Four games later while the Sixers were in Houston for a game against the Rockets, Dawkins complained that he had since been whistled for ticky-tack fouls after shattering the backboard and subsequently holding up that contest against the Kings. In fact, referee Darell Garretson inexplicably tossed Dawkins out of that Nov. 21, 1979 game in Houston early in the third quarter as the 6-11 center was running down the court.
After the game, Garretson told the media of the unkind gesture Dawkins negotiated which got him ejected from the game. But Dawkins -- known for his colorful language – insisted he didn’t do that, and that, to paraphrase, he was only readjusting his shorts.
During a 123-120 win over San Antonio on Dec. 5, 1979, Dawkins stunned on-lookers again when he shattered his second backboard. Today, primarily because of Dawkins, the NBA did away with those backboards and is now equipped with breakaway rims and backboards which can’t be shattered.
On his Instagram account Thursday, Rockets center Dwight Howard posted a picture of Dawkins dunking the basketball. The captain read:
"You were one of my favorite players of all time. You were very inspirational to a lot of young players. Thank u for the long talks and great memories.
"I can't believe that you’re gone. But you are in a better place. You were the originator of the dunk. The names you came up with were creative and on point. Prayers go up for the Dawkins family."
Dawkins was the fifth overall pick of the 1975 draft and became the first player who was drafted on the first round who entered the NBA directly from high school. Chocolate Thunder had personality and pizzazz and a flair for the dramatics, and he will truly be missed.
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-5 p.m. CDT on dfwiradio.com.