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The NBA's 'Chocolate Thunder' — Darryl Dawkins the Backboard Smasher: Transitions at Age 58

He rapped (perhaps the first NBA player to do so), named his dunks ("Dunk You Very Much") and forced the NBA to invent breakaway rims and shatter resistant backboards because he had a habit of turning backboards into a thousand shards of glass.


Darryl Dawkins' intimidation factor loomed so large that he was given the nickname "Chocolate Thunder" by a man who couldn't even see him: Stevie Wonder.
Darryl Dawkins' intimidation factor loomed so large that he was given the nickname "Chocolate Thunder" by a man who
couldn't even see him: Stevie Wonder.


By ESPN
Darryl Dawkins was once summoned in the Philadelphia 76ers' locker room to meet a celebrity who wanted to meet the man known for dunking with backboard-breaking force.

The guest was Grammy Award winner Stevie Wonder. The entertainer is blind, yet even he could tell there was something unique about Dawkins' game.


"A guy who never saw me," a beaming Dawkins said in a 2011 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.

Dawkins died Thursday at a hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, according to the Lehigh County coroner's office. He was 58, and even though officials said an autopsy would be performed Friday, his family released a statement saying the cause of death was a heart attack.

"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 said.

Dawkins spent parts of 14 seasons in the NBA with Philadelphia, New Jersey, Utah and Detroit. He averaged 12.0 points and 6.1 rebounds in 726 regular-season games. His 57.2 field goal percentage is seventh best in NBA history.

"The NBA family is heartbroken by the sudden and tragic passing of Darryl Dawkins," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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 NBA draft by the 76ers. He was the first high school player to be taken in the first round of the draft.


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."

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

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