Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins, the former Philadelphia 76ers player who gained fame for twice shattering backboards with his thunderous slam dunks, died Thursday, a friend of the family confirmed.
He was 58.
An Orlando native, Dawkins dominated the Central Florida high school scene and led Evans to a state title.
He was the first prep player to go directly to the NBA in 1975, jumping from Evans High to the Philadelphia 76ers.
His mother, Harriette Dawkins, raised three sons and two daughters with the help of her mother. Understanding the demands on his single mom and family hardships, Dawkins renounced his college eligibility.
“I felt like, `Hey, I can put my brothers and sisters through school, take care of my mother and grandmother,’ ” Dawkins told the Orlando Sentinel in 2001. “I was more mature than some of these kids today. I had a strong pastor, a mother and grandmother who were always there for me.”
Dawkins, a former head coach of the now-defunct Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs and the Lehigh-Carbon Community College men’s team, lived in the Allentown area following his 14-year playing career.
The 6-11 Dawkins struggled his rookie year, but would go on to average double digits in scoring in nine of his 14 seasons. He played seven seasons with the 76ers, five with the New Jersey Nets and also played for Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons. After the NBA, he played in Italy and spent one year with the Harlem Globetrotters.
While he had a lengthy NBA career, Dawkins was most remembered for the two backboards he shattered in the 1979 season. The first one happened against the Kansas City Kings Nov. 11, and he did it again three weeks later against the San Antonio Spurs.
Days after the second backboard shattering, the NBA created a rule saying anyone who breaks a backboard would be facing a fine and suspension. The NBA later introduced breakaway rims.
After his playing days, Dawkins started coaching, first in New Jersey and then later with the ValleyDawgs and LCCC. When he wasn’t coaching, Dawkins was known in the Lehigh Valley for his work with youth, hosting camps and clinics at area basketball courts, as well as area high schools.
At the PPL Center in the fall, Dawkins took a group of children to watch a 76ers exhibition game in the newly opened arena and talked about the possibility of an NBA developmental league team playing there one day.
Dawkins and his wife have three children.