Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rest in Peace, Chocolate Thunder

Darryl Dawkins dies at the age of 58:
Darryl Dawkins, the backboard-shattering big man better known as "Chocolate Thunder," who became the first high-school player ever to jump straight to the NBA, beaming down to our lowly orb from Planet Lovetron to entertain fans and rattle rims as one of the most colorful and singular characters in NBA history, died Thursday. He was 58.
WFMZ-TV of Allentown, Pa., first reported news of Dawkins' death. Shortly thereafter, the NBA confirmed his passing via its @NBAHistory Twitter account. The New York Daily News confirmed that Dawkins died at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest on Thursday.
Dawkins' family confirmed that he had suffered a heart attack in a statement released Thursday afternoon...
Born in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 11, 1957, Dawkins rose to prominence as a teenage star at Maynard Evans High School. In 1975, one year after Moses Malone made the unprecedented jump from high school hoops to the professional ranks of the ABA, Dawkins followed suit, applying for admission to the NBA draft as a hardship candidate.
"I knew when I saw my grandmother working two jobs just to barely make ends meet, and she gave me her last 10 dollars just so I could buy some sneakers, that I had to do it," Dawkins told Dave Wohl, who both played against and coached him, for a 1988 Sports Illustrated piece.
The decision paid off when the 76ers selected Dawkins with the fifth overall pick in the 1975 draft. His reward for becoming the NBA's first preps-to-pros prospect? A seven-year contract worth a cool $1 million.
But while some expected the 6-foot-11 center to make a major-league impact from the second he set foot in the NBA, Dawkins struggled to find playing time as a teenager on Gene Shue's playoff Philly squads. He logged just 849 minutes over 96 total appearances in his first two seasons, coming off the bench behind the likes of Harvey Catchings and Caldwell Jones.
Dawkins began to come into his own in his third season. With Shue fired after six games and Billy Cunningham taking over, Dawkins earned a spot in the rotation and averaged just under 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks per game for a Sixers side that finished 55-27 before falling to the Washington Bullets in the 1978 Eastern Conference finals.
Dawkins would spend four more seasons in Philadelphia, making the playoffs every year and helping the 76ers to two more NBA Finals trips. The dual highlights of his Sixers tenure came during late in 1979, when Dawkins — who had taken to giving his dunks colorful names, like Yo Mama, the Rim Wrecker, the Go- Rilla, the Look Out Below, the In-Your-Face Disgrace, the Cover Your Head, the Spine Chiller Supreme, Dunk You Very Much and the Sexophonic Turbo Delight — took his signature stuffs to another level (see above video).
I remember Dawkins being a Trivial Pursuit sports version answer or three when I played as a kid.  Basketball was one of the tougher subjects for me, so he kind of became a default answer.  Considering how long ago that was, it demonstrates how young he was that he was only 58 when he passed away.

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