Dr. Dunkenstein. Sir Slam. Lovetron. Chocolate Thunder.
August 27, 2015 2:08 PM   Subscribe

One of the most influential sports figures you've never heard of, Darryl Dawkins has passed at the age of 58. Dawkins was an NBA star in the flashy, no-defense, pre-Michael Jordan days, an early Nike-splashed icon, with multiple self-styled nicknames, although "Chocolate Thunder," was bestowed on him by Stevie Wonder. Think of the image of a basketball player shattering the backboard glass. You're thinking of Dawkins.
posted by Cool Papa Bell (27 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There are basketball fans who haven't heard of Darryl Dawkins? God, am I that old?

I have a friend from college who covers the NBA now and his twitter feed is just full of reminisces β€” from all reports, Dawkins was a great guy off the court too.
posted by klangklangston at 2:11 PM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

I hear you. I can't imagine having never heard of Dawkins. Next they'll be saying they never heard of Julius Erving.

posted by Thorzdad at 2:13 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sorry to hear of this. Like klangklangston, all I ever heard of Dawkins off the court was that he was a super nice guy.
posted by blob at 2:17 PM on August 27, 2015

posted by LobsterMitten at 2:18 PM on August 27, 2015

From the famous SNL Weekend Update piece naming Dawkins the Man of the Millennium:
From a thousand years of history, we selected three finalists. William Shakespeare, master of the written word; Albert Einstein, decoder of cosmic mysteries; and Darryl Dawkins, who named his dunks "The Go-Rilla" and "Rump-Roaster," while claiming he was from the planet Lovetron. Three great men. But to choose one, we need a common ground on which to judge them. At random, this supercomputer chose: basketball. The head-to-head comparison went like this: over and over, Darryl Dawkins pounded violent, almost pornographic dunks over the once-great patent clerk and the effeminate actor, raining a shower of glass and terror on the two cowering nerds. So congratulations, Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins, Weekend Update's Man of the Millennium!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:21 PM on August 27, 2015 [21 favorites]

One of the greats.

RIP Chocolate Thunder.
posted by jonmc at 2:27 PM on August 27, 2015

posted by lord_wolf at 2:32 PM on August 27, 2015

Re: Top 20 Dunks
Dunking without travelling all the way across the paint?
posted by madajb at 2:34 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

He was one of those athletes you knew even if you weren't a fan of their sport. Probably because of them shattered backboards. This video of his top 20 dunks is fun. #2 is a doozy.
posted by zzazazz at 2:49 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mr. Thunder also has a connection to one of the more delightfully bonkers conspiracy theories of our time: Stevie Wonder Is Not Blind.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

This isn't mentioned in the header, but he gave his dunks the most ridiculous outer space names possible! If I dunked just once I would hope for a fraction of the inspiration that spawned The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.

Check out this excerpt from his Wikipedia page:
He named other dunks as well: the Rim Wrecker, the Go-Rilla, the Look Out Below, the In-Your-Face Disgrace, the Cover Your Head, the Yo-Mama, the Spine-Chiller Supreme, and the Greyhound Special (for the rare occasions when he went coast to coast). The 76ers also kept a separate column on the stat sheet for Dawkins’s self-created nicknames: "Sir Slam", "Dr. Dunkenstein", and "Chocolate Thunder."

At one point, Dawkins claimed to be an alien from the planet Lovetron, where he spent the off-season practicing "interplanetary funkmanship" and where his girlfriend Juicy Lucy lived.
Man. It's a shame he didn't have a second career naming battleships or office parks. He sounds like a hell of a guy and a fantastic weirdo whose DNA molecules encoded nothing but swag.
posted by Turkey Glue at 2:55 PM on August 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

posted by tonycpsu at 2:56 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

He gave us great dunks and a bunch of laughs. Would've been huge if he played today. I like to think he's returned to Lovetron.

And 58? Too young.
posted by Lyme Drop at 3:07 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Huh, the obit article says he was the first NBA player drafted directly out of high school. That's an interesting piece of trivia.

naming battleships or office parks

You mean to tell me that the U.S.S. Look Out Below and U.S.S. Cover Your Head aren't aircraft carriers currently involved in bombing Syria? That's a pity.

posted by axiom at 3:11 PM on August 27, 2015

Turbo Sexophonic Delight!
posted by escabeche at 3:20 PM on August 27, 2015

A friend of mine from Pennsylvania posted on his Facebook feed about how he met Darryl Dawkins after a 76ers game, and he said his clearest memory was how huge Dawkins was. According to this friend of mine, Dawkins said to him, "They call me 'Chocolate Thunder.' Why don't we call you 'Vanilla Lightning'?" Not only made his day, but he still remembers it after all these years.

posted by jonp72 at 3:35 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dawkins was one of the few players who could palm the basketball like it was a grapefruit and actually used that as part of his game. Dr J, Connie Hawkins and sometimes MJ did it too.

I'm kind of obsessed with this topic.

And guys like Dawkins just looked taller and longer than today's NBA bigs. Skinnier with longer limbs and narrower shoulders. Maybe it's mostly the uniforms or camera angles. Though it's definitely true that player weights have trended up while heights been relatively stable.
posted by mullacc at 4:06 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

My father was the prosecutor for our small town. One time, a man in a high-powered car came through town, and the local gendarme clocked him at speeds not just over the speed limit, but at several multiples of the speed limit. So a citation was issued to Mr. Darryl Dawkins, with an order to appear before the judge in no less than 30 days.

Little eight-year-old Aurelio buendia was told that Chocolate Thunder himself was to appear before the highest judicial power in Nowheresville, New Jersey to answer for his crime. Young master Buendia asked the senior Buendia what he would be asking for as punishment in this case. The town DA responded that the infraction was a serious matter, and Mr. Dawkins would surely have to pay, and pay dearly.

The day of judgement passed and I asked my father of the outcome. Dr. Funkenstein had to pay $1000 for his speeding ticket, quite a sum then, and quite a sum now. Darryl reportedly asked if he could render restitution then and there. He peeled 10 Benjamins off his roll and departed in the same hot rod he'd been ticketed in.

Later in life, I would read stories of country lawyers and rural courts where, dazzled by celebrity, they would let miscreants off with a handshake and a photo, or for a couple of autographs. Daddy Buendia, a stern man, a righteous man, a man who set an example for his sons, never went in for that. You committed the crime, you paid the fine (no jail in our little town), regardless of social station.

But little eight-year-old Aurelio, a Nets fan for his entire life, always wished that maybe Papa Buendia had relaxed his rectitude in exchange for one of those photos, or autographs, or a lesson in the sweet science of dunkanomics. Just. Once.

RIP Mr. Dawkins. Your awesomeness could barely be measured by words or radar.
posted by aureliobuendia at 4:34 PM on August 27, 2015 [13 favorites]

posted by Smart Dalek at 5:08 PM on August 27, 2015

That distant sound you hear is spring loaded rims being installed on the courts in the afterlife

Rest easy, Chocolate Thunder. Smash a backboard for us
posted by matrixgeek at 5:23 PM on August 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

posted by evilDoug at 7:12 PM on August 27, 2015

I pity you if you'd never heard of the one and only Chocolate Thunder. Pity, I say. Pity.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:28 PM on August 27, 2015

He was one of a kind, and now he is gone. RIP.
posted by Cranberry at 1:06 AM on August 28, 2015

Well, there go my plans for a band named Sexual Chocolate Thunder.

Rest in peace, Darryl.

posted by Sphinx at 5:45 AM on August 28, 2015

Too bad the phrase "winning at life" wasn't around at the time.

posted by whuppy at 6:18 AM on August 28, 2015

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