Darryl Dawkins, the popular National Basketball Association (NBA) player known for his backboard-smashing dunks, has died. He was 58.
While no cause of death has been specified, an autopsy is scheduled to be conducted on Friday.
“Dawkins, who had many ties to the Lehigh Valley, was pronounced dead at 11:19 a.m. Thursday at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township, the Lehigh County Coroner’s Office said,” as reported by Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley Live.
As reported by NPR, Dawkins was drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1975; and became the first NBA player to skip college. The unbeatable force with which he would arrive at a rim set him apart from the other players.
He was nicknamed “Chocolate Thunder” by the Grammy Award winner Stevie Wonder.
“A guy who never saw me gave me the name ‘Chocolate Thunder’,” Dawkins said in a 2011 interview.
‘Darryl touched the hearts and spirits of so many’
Dawkins’ family said in a statement that he suffered 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.”
In a statement, Lehigh Carbon Community College, where Dawkins served as a coach for two seasons, said, “LCCC community is saddened by the passing of Philadelphia 76er legend and former LCCC basketball coach Darryl Dawkins. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dawkins family.”
During his entire career as a basketball pro, he spent his time playing for Philadelphia, New Jersey, Utah and Detroit. In 726 regular-season games, he averaged 12.0 points and 6.1 rebounds. He held a 57.2 field goal percentage, which is seventh best in the history of NBA.
“The NBA family is heartbroken by the sudden and tragic passing of Darryl Dawkins,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, as reported by ESPN. “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.”
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Being drafted to the NBA straight out of high school after he applied for the 1975 Draft, he was taken fifth overall by the 76ers, as reported by Rolling Stone. He played a significantly important role for the 76ers as they competed for the Eastern Conference in the 1970s and early 80s. Traded to the New Jersey Jets in 1982, the team made play-offs for four straight seasons with his help.
His career came to an end in 1989, but he made comeback attempts in 1994 and 95. Dawkins played in Italy, the Continental Basketball Association and briefly with the Harlem Globetrotters.
“Darryl Dawkins is the father of power dunking,” Shaquille O’Neal had said once, as reported by ESPN. “I’m just one of his sons.”
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