Remembering Darryl Dawkins: A Look at Chocolate Thunder's Legacy

By Jaime Villegas

September 1, 2015

A few days ago the world lost one of its biggest basketball stars, Darryl Dawkins. Darryl, an NBA Legend that joined the NBA Events family a few years ago, often made appearances for exclusive meet and greets during our NBA events.

Darryl was born January 11, 1957 in Orlando, Florida, and burst onto the national scene in 1975 when he became the first player to make the transition directly from high school to the NBA. From that moment on fans knew to expect big things from Darryl Dawkins. He attended Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, where he led his team to the Florida State Championship his senior year. That summer, Dawkins chose to renounce his college eligibility and applied for the 1975 NBA Draft as a hardship candidate.

Power Personified

Darryl was selected as the fifth overall choice by the Philadelphia 76ers in the draft. With a physique that rivaled some of the greats, inordinate strength and an unusually accurate jump shot for a man his size, Dawkins quickly became one to watch and showed promise well beyond his years. The first few years saw Dawkins become one of basketball’s larger-than-life figures. It was clear Dawkins was destined to make his mark on the sport’s history in a number of ways.

On a November night in 1979, with the Sixers playing in Kansas City against the Kings, Dawkins rose over Kings power-forward Bill Robinzine and his powerful dunk literally brought down the basket, shattered the plexiglass backboard and rained clear pellets onto the floor, and delayed the game by 90 minutes. He gave the dunk a name: “The If-You-Ain’t-Groovin’, Best-Get-Movin’, Chocolate-Thunder-Flyin’, Robinzine-Cryin’, Teeth-Shakin’, Glass-Breakin’, Rump-Roastin’, Bun-Toastin’, Glass-Still Flyin’, Wham-Bam-I-Am-Jam.”

When Dawkins repeated the feat a few games later, the NBA responded by warning him that he’d be fined if he did it again and later made it illegal to hang on the basket after a dunk, a dictum that became known as the Dawkins rule.

What’s In a Name?

As one of the game’s fiercest dunkers, it seems only fitting that “Chocolate Thunder” also gave his dunks names just as awesome as his. Names like: Your Mama, In Your Face Disgrace, Cover Yo Damn Head, Earthquake Breaker and Left-handed Spine Chiller Supreme were often heard from the sports commentators after Dawkins performed them with unmatched precision and finesse. 

Standing Out

While some may argue that a dunk is just for appearances and not skill, Dawkins argued, “it gets your team hyped, get the crowd all excited and takes the starch out of other teams, especially when you dunk on somebody.” Dawkins knew that a dunk was more than just a dunk, there was always a motive.

When Dawkins wasn’t standing out on the court, he was making lasting impressions with his explosive style. Known for his brightly-colored suits, Dawkins literally lit up the room the moment he walked in.

For the Love of Basketball

Following his 14 seasons in the NBA, Dawkins had a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters. He was able to keep his love affair with basketball going as a coach of the ABA’s Newark Express and the Winnipeg Cyclones, as well as the USBL’s Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs. In 2003, Dawkins released his autobiography titled "Chocolate Thunder: The Uncensored Life and Times of Darryl Dawkins." He remained visible at events like the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, where he served as a judge for this year’s Sprite Slam Dunk contest. Dawkins was known for his flamboyant personality; it’s something that made him so loveable. Fans would say that Dawkins was too big, too strong and too darn funky to be contained by our basketball world, so he created his own. Dawkins often said he was from Planet Lovetron, where he spent the off-season practicing “interplanetary funkmanship.” See? Dawkins was truly a man out of this world.

We will miss you, Chocolate Thunder.