By now, early evening Eastern time, you probably know that Darryl Dawkins has passed away at the too-early age of 58. Every fan who watched the NBA in the mid-to-late 1970s feels as if a part of their youth has gone, too.
Sadly, amidst all the tributes on social media as the word circulated through the sports world, there was one Facebook comment whose memories of Dawkins were of underachievement. Dawkins, the commenter said, “could have been an all time great if he had taken basketball a little more seriously.”
Someone call 911, rush this person to the hospital and order an emergency “fun” transfusion, stat.
If you’re thinking of how Darryl Dawkins didn’t have a more successful NBA career because he didn’t take it seriously enough, then you wasted every second you ever spent watching, listening to or thinking about him.
He nicknamed himself (Chocolate Thunder). He nicknamed his dunks (The In Your Face Disgrace, the Left-handed Spine Chiller Supreme, the Turbo-Sexophonic Delight). He invented a home planet (Lovetron). He rapped before they had a real name for it.
He shattered two backboards in one season, you might have heard a little about today (that’s something that will never happen again, because the NBA inserted breakaway rims and Plexiglas backboards in response). He jump-started possibly the greatest fight in NBA Finals history, featuring him swinging at an opposing player, hitting his own teammate by mistake (Doug Collins – yes, that Doug Collins), squaring off with one of the most fearsome individuals ever (Mo Lucas) and capped by him destroying a locker-room toilet.
He was 19 years old when that slugfest took place, by the way. Darryl cleared the path from high school to the NBA, a year before Moses Malone went to the ABA from high school, and before Kevin Garnett was born, never mind LeBron and Kobe. He survived 14 years in the NBA, then five more in Italy, then a year with the Globetrotters, then a trip to the CBA, and finished in Winnipeg, of all places, when he was 43 years old. He coached a little, acted a little and wrote his autobiography.
In a quarter-century of playing ball for money, and for 15 years after that as a global ambassador for the sport, no one ever had a bad word to say about Darryl Dawkins. Not players, coaches, league employees, reporters or fans.
He also averaged 12 points, six rebounds and a block and a half in the NBA. Nope, he didn’t go to the Hall of Fame, and he won’t be mentioned in the same breath as Wilt, Russell and Kareem.
But if that’s what’s on your mind, if that’s what you care about now that he’s gone, you didn’t do Darryl Dawkins right.