Darryl Dawkins, “Chocolate Thunder,” Has Died

The 76er was famous for his backboard-shattering dunks.

Darryl Dawkins, who was a 76er during the team’s glory days and became famous as “Chocolate Thunder” for his backboard-shattering dunks, has died. He was 58.

“A Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest spokesperson confirmed to the Daily News that Dawkins died there Thursday. No cause of death was given,” the New York Daily News reports. “Nicknamed ‘Chocolate Thunder’ by Stevie Wonder, Dawkins was selected fifth overall by the 76ers in the 1975 NBA Draft and became legendary for his ferocious dunks – once shattering two backboards in a three week span in 1979.”

“Following his retirement from the NBA, Dawkins – nicknamed Chocolate Thunder by Stevie Wonder – coached the American Basketball Association’s Newark Express and the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs, which played in the Lehigh Valley as part of the now-defunct United States Basketball League,” WFMZ adds. “Dawkins most recently was the former head coach of the Lehigh Carbon Community College men’s basketball team.”

In a 2009 oral history about The Spectrum, power forward Bobby Jackson told Philly Mag about Dawkins’ brashness as a player. “Denver traded me to Philadelphia [in 1978], and it was a little different — the fans, the freedom of speech. I remember Darryl Dawkins telling a ref, ‘I hope your momma die.’ The ref looked at him and didn’t say anything. The very next play, the ref comes down again and Darryl says, ‘I hope your dog die.’”

Dime Magazine revealed how he got the “Chocolate Thunder” nickname: “Stevie Wonder used to come the ball games and they would have a guy sitting with him. And the guy would be holding on to his arm, telling him what’s going on, and he would say, ‘Hey, the big chocolate guy just put down a thunder dunk. The chocolate guy with another monster dunk.’ And Stevie Wonder actually gave me the nickname Chocolate Thunder. So a guy who never saw me can give me that name. I think I can wear that well. I don’t even know if he remembers, it’s been so long, but I’ll keep that.”

And Dawkins’ 1977 playoff brawl with Portland’s Maurice Lucas is remembered as one of the fiercest fights in NBA history.

Complex.com wrote: “This was a bout between two Gs. Darryl Dawkins and Mo Lucas (RIP) were known to throw the hands every once in awhile. Some might remember Mo as the dude in White Men Can’t Jump that promised to shoot everybody after Sidney and Billy hustled him. Dawkins and Bob Gross battled for a rebound and had some words. Gross must’ve said the magic words to Dawkins, so Darryl popped him, but hit his own teammate, Doug Collins, instead. Mo slapped Darryl in the back of the head and challenged him to shoot the one. This led to fans trying to get on the floor to get in the action and players on both teams had shoving matches. Both Lucas and Dawkins were ejected and Dawkins was fined $2,500. No suspensions. The Blazers lost the game, but went on to win the series in six games.”

“The Sixers family is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of an absolute legend, Darryl Dawkins,” Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil said in a statement. “We’ve lost a dear friend and an iconic figure, both on and off the court. We remember fondly not only his thunderous dunks, but more importantly his powerful presence and personality. Simply put, Darryl Dawkins was beloved—by his family, friends, former teammates and his fans all over the globe. His endearing charm, infectious smile and unparalleled sense of humor will be sorely missed. ‘Chocolate Thunder’ will always have a special place in our hearts. His family is in our thoughts and prayers.”