The Courier-Mail

NBA star who had power of Thunder

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DARRYL Dawkins was once summoned in the Philadelph­ia 76ers’ locker room to come meet a celebrity who wanted to meet the man known for dunking with backboard-breaking force.

The guest was Stevie Wonder. The entertaine­r is blind, yet even he could tell there was something very unique about Dawkins’ game.

“A guy who never saw me,” a beaming Dawkins said in a 2011 televised interview, “gave me the name ‘Chocolate Thunder’.”

The name stuck, and the rim-wrecking, glass-shattering dunks remain unforgetta­ble – as will the giant of a man who changed the game with them.

Following his death from a heart attack, his family said: “Darryl touched the hearts and spirits of so many with his big smile and personalit­y, ferocious dunks, but more than anything, his huge, loving heart.

“His family, wife Janice, children Dara, Tabitha, Nicholas and Alexis, along with countless family, friends, and fans, all mourn his loss.

“More than anything Darryl accomplish­ed in his basketball career as the inimitable ‘Chocolate Thunder,’ he was most proud of his role and responsibi­lity as a husband and father.”

The first player to go from high school into the first round of the NBA draft, Dawkins spent parts of 14 seasons in the NBA with Philadelph­ia, New Jersey, Utah and Detroit. He averaged 12 points and 6.1 rebounds in 726 career regular-season games.

Injuries plagued him late in his NBA career, and he went overseas for several more years to play in the Italian league. He also briefly had stints in the Continenta­l Basketball Associatio­n and the Internatio­nal Basketball Associatio­n.

“The NBA family is heartbroke­n by the sudden and tragic passing of Darryl Dawkins,” NBA commission­er Adam Silver said. “We will always remember Darryl for his incredible talent, his infectious enthusiasm and his boundless generosity. He played the game with passion, integrity and joy, never forgetting how great an influence he had on his legions of fans, young and old.”

Dawkins was selected No.5 in the 1975 draft by the 76ers. His two backboard-shattering dunks came about a month apart early in the 1979-80 season, one against Kansas City, the other against San Antonio.

“You were one of my favourite players of all time,” Houston centre Dwight Howard posted on Instagram last week under a photo of Dawkins dunking in a game.

“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.”

Dawkins’ shows of force unquestion­ably changed the game. The NBA soon went to breakaway rims and mandated that backboards be shatter-resistant.

“Simply put, Darryl Dawkins was beloved-by his family, friends, former teammates and his fans all over the globe,” 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said. “His endearing charm, infectious smile and unparallel­ed sense of humour will be sorely missed. ‘Chocolate Thunder’ will always have a special place in our hearts. His family is in our thoughts and prayers.”

Dawkins was, by any measure, a character. His love for the game was unquestion­ed and unwavering – he appeared at a 76ers alumni event last month and recently posted a photo on Twitter of him coaching a summer league girls team.

Dawkins was as revered off the court as he was on it. He remained enormously popular after his playing days were done, even during his stint as a member of the Harlem Globetrott­ers. He would name his dunks – the “look out below”, the “yo-mama” and the “rim wrecker” among them – and often boasted that he hailed from the “Planet Lovetron”.

He was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, growing up impoverish­ed with dreams of giving his mother and grandmothe­r better lives.

Dawkins later coached at times, at both the minor league and junior college levels.

He averaged double digits in nine consecutiv­e NBA seasons, with his best year likely being the 1983-84 campaign for New Jersey. He averaged a career-best 16.8 points that year, with only foul trouble – 386 that season, still a league record – holding him back.

“Darryl Dawkins is the father of power dunking,” Shaquille O’Neal once said. “I’m just one of his sons.”

 ??  ?? DARRYL DAWKINS NBA basketball player Born: January 11, 1957, Orlando, Florida Died: August 27, 2015, Allentown, Pennsylvan­ia,
DARRYL DAWKINS NBA basketball player Born: January 11, 1957, Orlando, Florida Died: August 27, 2015, Allentown, Pennsylvan­ia,

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