Darryl Dawkins’ Dunks Forced the NBA to Install New Baskets

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Darryl Dawkins, Chocolate Thunder

Basketball fans will tell you Darryl Dawkins was different. The former NBA player got his nickname – one of the better ones in all of sports — from a blind man, claimed to be from another planet, and caused the league to create a rule against the very reason fans wanted to see him play.

Darryl Dawkins had an unusual and successful career

Darryl Dawkins made the jump directly from an Orlando, Florida, high school to the NBA in 1975. At 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, he had the build to fit in but played sparingly with the Philadelphia 76ers – he was seen eating candy bars on the bench as a rookie — until getting important minutes in the playoffs in his second season. He was ejected from Game 2 of the NBA Finals and reacted by tearing a toilet out of the wall and barricading the locker room door.

He was a fixture down in the blocks over the next nine seasons with the 76ers and New Jersey Nets, specializing in dunks on the offensive end of the court and shot-blocking on the defensive end. His best season was with the Nets in 1983-84, when he averaged 16.8 points and 6.7 rebounds but also averaged 4.7 fouls per game.

Playing portions of 14 seasons, he shot 57.2% (12th-best in league history) from the field and averaged 12.0 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. Dawkins’ trademark on the court was his penchant for powerful dunks, leading musician Stevie Wonder to dub him “Chocolate Thunder.”

Off the court, he was regarded as a colorful personality, entertaining reporters with a tale of being an alien from the planet Lovetron, a schtick he developed while still in high school. After his NBA career ended due to a string of injuries, Dawkins toured briefly with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Darryl Dawkins had names for his dunks

One oft-told story about Darryl Dawkins was that a sneaker company executive called 76ers coach Billy Cunningham to complain that Dawkins was wearing a Nike sneaker on one foot and a Pony sneaker on the other. Upon investigating, Cunningham discovered the player had signed contracts with both companies.

Dawkins’ propensity for attacking the rim led to him coming up with creative nicknames for his dunks. The names included:

  • The In-Your-Face Disgrace
  • The Look Out Below
  • The Spine-Chiller Supreme
  • The Yo-Mama

One other nickname for his dunks was the “Rim Wrecker,” which was appropriate. In a November 1979 game against the Kansas City Kings, Dawkins shattered the backboard with a throw-down. He did the same thing less than a month later in a contest against the San Antonio Spurs.

That was followed shortly afterward by a decree from the NBA that breaking a backboard would be punished by a fine and suspension. The league instructed teams to install breakaway rims the following season.

Chocolate Thunder’s memory will live on

Darryl Dawkins, who died in 2015 at the age of 58, wrote an autobiography. “Chocolate Thunder: The Uncensored Life and Time of Darryl Dawkins” detailed some of the many outlandish moments in his career.

His stories will live on courtesy of the book and his name will also continue to show up on sports pages through his son. Nick Dawkins, an offensive lineman from Allentown, Pennsylvania, signed a letter of intent late last year to play football at Penn State. The young Dawkins is 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds.