Darryl Dawkins, first to join NBA from high school, dies at 58

Credit: Alvaro Barrientos

Credit: Alvaro Barrientos

Darryl Dawkins, the first high school player to go straight to the National Basketball Association when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1975, has died. He was 58.

He died Thursday at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, according to an emailed statement from the Lehigh County Coroner’s Office. An autopsy was scheduled for Friday.

Dawkins, who was nicknamed “Chocolate Thunder” and claimed to hail from the Planet Lovetron, played in the NBA for 14 seasons, including his first seven with the 76ers. He was 18 when the team selected him with the fifth pick of the 1975 draft.

The 6-foot-11 Dawkins was known for his backboard- shattering slam dunks, for which he gave names such as “In- Your-Face Disgrace,” “Look Out Below,” “Rim-Wrecker,” “Go- Rilla,” “Spine Chiller Supreme” and “Cover Your Head.”

Dawkins made NBA history in November of 1979 by shattering a backboard with a dunk in a game against the Kansas City Kings. One month later, Dawkins shattered a backboard and pulled down the rim in the Philadelphia Spectrum during a game against the San Antonio Spurs. Afterward, then-NBA Commissioner Larry O’Brien informed Dawkins that every time he broke a backboard, he’d owe the league $5,000.

Dawkins played alongside players such as Julius Erving, World B. Free and Doug Collins in Philadelphia and lost three times in the NBA Finals. He left the 76ers after the 1981-82 season, going on to play for the New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons.

Dawkins averaged 12 points and 6.1 rebounds a game over his NBA playing career, which ended after the 1988-89 season.