Darryl Dawkins, the colorful and bombastic and backboard-busting center for the Philadelphia 76ers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, has died at the age of 58.
Nicknamed “Chocolate Thunder” by none other than Stevie Wonder, Dawkins played the balance of his 15-year NBA career for the Sixers before playing a few more years with the New Jersey Nets. He created his legend as a (back then) a rare high school phenom who jumped directly to the NBA and shattering a couple of glass backboards during the 1970s. Together with the iconic Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, who marveled the sportsworld with his spectacular aerial acrobatics and awe-inspiring dunks, the Sixers were one of the marquee teams in the NBA at that time. along with the Lakers and Celtics.
A Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest spokesperson confirmed died there at 11:19 a.m. Thursday morning. An autopsy will be performed Friday to determine a cause of death, the coroner’s office announced.
Dawkins penchant for backboard busting dunks led the NBA to install the breakaway rims that are used to this day.
After spending seven seasons with the Sixers — where he and Dr. J led the team to three NBA Finals appearances but no title wins — Dawkins was traded to the Nets in 1982. The Sixers got their coveted title the very next year when they acquired Moses Malone.
Dawkins got revenge on the Sixers two years after the trade when his Nets bounced the Sixers from the first-round of the NBA playoffs. Injuries, however, would soon take their toll on the 6-11 big man, who played his last complete season during the 1983-84 campaign. Stints with the Utah Jazz (1987) and Detroit Pistons (1987-89) followed before Dawkins was out of the NBA.
He remained active in basketball for another decade, playing in Italy for two years before landing with the Harlem Globetrotters. There were also stints with Continental Basketball Association and International Basketball Association before he retired in 2000.
Dawkins made the transition to coaching, most recently as head coach of Lehigh Carbon Community College’s men’s basketball team.