The basketball community on Thursday mourns the loss of one of the greatest dunkers the game has ever seen. Darryl Dawkins, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, died Thursday of currently unknown causes, as confirmed by the Lehigh Valley County Coroner's office. An autoposy will be conducted on Friday to determine the cause of death. The initial report of the death came from WFMZ-TV in Lehigh Valley.
Dawkins started his carrer in 1975 after being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers fifth overall in the first round of that year's draft. Dawkins began to break out in the league during the 1976 playoffs, averaging 7.3 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game.
The Sixers made it to postseason the following year, thanks to strong production from Dawkins off of the bench, who looked as if he was ready to come into the starting lineup.
Dawkins found his way into the starting lineup at the start of the 1977-78 season and created a strong front court in Philly when he and Caldwell Jones played side by side, shutting down the entire league.
The 1979-80 season was a big one for the man known as Chocolate Thunder. On November 11, 1979, Dawkins and the Sixers went up against the Kansas City Kings on the road. Dawkins took the ball into the lane and dunked it so hard that he shattered the backboard. Dawkins named the backboard-breaking dunk "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam".
Come December, Dawkins did it again. This time, the backboard breaker was at home against the San Antonio Spurs. A few days after that dunk, the NBA implimented a new rule that breaking the backboard would result in a fine and suspension. The NBA also began to look into the use of rims that would not result in the the backboard to break.
Dawkins and the Sixers failed to get back to the NBA Finals the next season, as they lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. The follwoing season, they did make it back to the Finals, but lost to the Lakers again.
In the offseason following the 1982 season, the Sixers traded Dawkins to the New Jersey Nets for a first round pick in the 1983 NBA Draft.
Dawkins only played two full years with the Nets before becoming injury-riddled for the rest of his career. From 1984 to 1989, Dawkins spent time with the Nets, the Utah Jazz, and the Detroit Pistons.
Dawkins will not only be remembered for his dunks, but his charisma and sportsmanship on the court.