Former 76ers Star Darryl Dawkins Passes At 58

Former NBA star Darryl Dawkins, who spent most of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, has passed away at the age of 58. Dawkins died Thursday at a hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, according to the Lehigh County coroner’s office. Officials have planned an autopsy, even though his family has given the cause of death.

In a statement to the NBA, Dawkin’s family revealed that he suffered a heart attack.

“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of our beloved husband and father, Darryl Dawkins, who succumbed today to a heart attack. Darryl touched the hearts and spirits of so many with his big smile and personality, ferocious dunks, but more than anything, his huge, loving heart. His family, wife Janice, children Dara, Tabitha, Nicholas and Alexis, along with countless family, friends, and fans, all mourn his loss. More than anything Darryl accomplished in his basketball career as the inimitable ‘Chocolate Thunder,’ he was most proud of his role and responsibility as a husband and father. We ask that the public please respect our privacy as we grieve his loss.”

Not many basketball fans under the age of 45 will remember Darryl Dawkins. But if you were lucky enough to be born into a family of basketball purists, you were treated to round ball glory. Watching Dawkins work his magic on the court was mesmerizing. Imagine a 250 pound giant with the grace of a gazelle. Picture, if you will, a man possessed, soaring over your head and slamming a power dunk through the hoop. Dawkins was more than poetry in motion. He was the perfect combination of strength and agility. He was the question mark defined.

Many people will look at Darryl Dawkins and think about what he could have been instead of realizing what he was. Dawkins was a power center who stood his ground and wore you down. That attitude and confidence made him the first player to be drafted straight from high school.

Dawkins played in the NBA Finals three times as a member of the 76ers. Darryl averaged double figures in scoring nine times in his 14 years in the NBA, often ranking among the league leaders in field-goal percentage.

On the name Chocolate Thunder, ESPN reports that Stevie Wonder bestowed the name upon Dawkins after being present at a 76ers game.

Rest in peace Darryl. May you find solid backboards on planet Lovetron.

[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]