Talking with Chocolate Thunder


Few NBA players are as successful in their post-career lives as Darryl Dawkins, more commonly known as Chocolate Thunder. Known for his ferocious dunks, Chocolate (as he is commonly referred to) continues to be one of the faces of the NBA and basketball everywhere. He had a series of appearances on Thursday, helping to promote his house party in Philadelphia on Thursday night in conjunction with Captain Morgan’s charity efforts. More information on how you can help this cause can be found in the first question after the jump, and it’s very easy to do, it takes only a minute.

While I was unable to attend the house party, I was amazingly fortunate to get the opportunity talk to Darryl for a few minutes for his thoughts on basketball, the Sixers, and (mostly) dunking. What ensued were discussions of dunks versus lobs, motor homes, a vote for DeMar DeRozan, how many dunks he had, popular daytime TV shows, taxes, and Stevie Wonder. I must say I haven’t had this much fun in a long time. I hope you enjoy it.

Sean: First off, Darryl, I want to thank you for joining me today. To begin, I want to talk about the house party you are hosting tonight for charity. What charity are you raising money for, and how is Captain Morgan helping you out?

Darryl: Well, we’re coming up on 1,000,000, the pose for the Captain. If you upload a picture of you doing the pose, and send it over to the Captain Morgan Facebook site, Captain Morgan will donate a dollar to the Urban Affairs Coalition. They do a lot of good work around Philadelphia, and that’s how we give back to the people, we give them a million dollars. So, I mean this isn’t just about a party, we’re giving back too. And we’re all getting the chance to have a few of the new Long Island Iced Teas, which is already ready, you just pour it over ice and you’re ready to go. But like always, we want to tell people to enjoy it, but to also keep it in moderation, don’t go crazy.

Sean: Now the last time I saw you on TV was the night of the all-star game.

Darryl: Alright.

Sean: First, I was to complement you on the suit you were wearing – it was awesome. So kudos to you for that.

Darryl: Thanks man! You know what, guys don’t have an imagination, and they won’t wear colors. They wanna wear blue, black, grey all the time. And as you well know, I had it when I came into Philadelphia, my imagination has not left me yet. And it won’t leave me until I’m in a box. So I won’t do what most people want to.

Sean: Now, on the topic of the actual dunk contest, how impressed were you with Blake Griffin’s car dunk?

Darryl: You know I was impressed with it, the dunk over the car, and I need to redefine it a little bit. What a dunk is and what a lob pass is. A dunk is when you take it and when you throw it down in there. His was a dunk but it seemed more that it was a lob pass and that he held onto the rim and just scored on that. It was the best dunk there, yes, but I would like to see the dunk where he jumps over the car, dunks, and lands on the other side. I don’t want to see him catch it on the rim because that’s actually called a lob because he finished over the car. A dunk would be if he jumped from one side, dunked, and landed on the other side. I like Blake, I’m not beating Blake up, but a dunk and catching a lob are two different things.

Sean: Back in the day, do you think you could have dunked over a car?

Darryl: I would’ve jumped over a motor home. I wouldn’t have stopped with a car. I would’ve went for the motor home.

Sean: Nice. Now, do you think someone could do that today, or no?

Darryl: I don’t think anyone today could jump over the motor home. They weren’t like me. But really, they added a lot of excitement to the dunk contest to where it will be when people are interested again, because the competition was great. well, I have to protect my guy (DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors). He got a little bit of a raw deal. That will frustrate a young player – you couldn’t pick 5 people in the crowd who could do that dunk. I just think that, I don’t think he got the credit he should have got for that.

Sean: I know – I thought DeRozan should have at least been in the final two.

Darryl: Yeah, and there’s so much more he could have shown as we went on through the contest. But as you know in the contest, you might not save your best dunk for last because you might not make it that far. You gotta go for the gusto. It’s kinda like Let’s Make a Deal. Do you want the little money they give out in the crowd or the big deal of the day?

Sean: And you can’t get to the big deal if you don’t perform early on.

Darryl: That’s right.

Sean: Okay, so I want to stay on the topic of dunks. You are probably just as well known for your dunks as you were for your names of dunks. So, what is your favorite all-time dunk name?

Darryl: My favorite all-time dunk was the Yo Mama, and it was that because he was like hanging on me, staying on me, and when I put it down right in his mouth: Yo Mama! That was my favorite all-time dunk.

My favorite nickname for me, today, is still Chocolate Thunder. I try to tell everybody, they say “Why do you like it so much?” and I said that it was given to me by a guy who never saw me. The name was given to me by a world-famous musician who came to all the games, and he used to have a guy who sat beside him and told him all the things that were going on. And the blind guy said “The chocolate guy just threw down a thunder dunk.” So I was named Chocolate Thunder by Stevie Wonder.

Sean: Really? I didn’t know that. That’s awesome!

Darryl: Yeah! The guy never saw me, but he named me Chocolate Thunder. He’s blind, but he still has vision. He visualized me being the Chocolate Thunder and I said “I’m gonna roll with that.” I was gonna roll like a whale away with that one.

Sean: And you’re obviously still known as Chocolate Thunder today. I mean, when people were asking me about this I usually said to them that I had an interview with Chocolate Thunder, not Darryl Dawkins.

Darryl: You know what? Darryl Dawkins shows up on the bank statements and bank notes, but really I go by Chocolate Thunder. When people who know me see me in the grocery store they go “Hey Chocolate!” They know me like that. And even now, kids who were not even alive when I was playing, they see me and say “What’s up, Chocolate Thunder?” And even if their parents told them to call me Chocolate Thunder, you know, that keeps me going. So I like that one.

Sean: I was about to say that I know of a couple of others. One that I really like was Dr. Dunkenstein. Do you like that one?

Darryl: Yeah, I like that one, because I was always able to operate down there and dunk on some of those guys. And, you know, I’m 6′ 11″. And there were guys that were 7’2″ or 7’3″ and I was throwing it in their faces. So I was like a Doctor Dunk. I wasn’t like Dr. Chase, because I wasn’t surgically operating. I wasn’t surgically operating but my operating did cause patients.

Sean: Alright, so this is my last question about dunks. How many dunk contests have you participated in, NBA or other-wise?

Darryl: I was never in an NBA dunk contest – they didn’t start that until I was years into the league.

Sean: But I guess you had to be in some contests, over the summer or something like that?

Darryl: Well, I was in Florida, and they had a few cities where they had dunk contests. I’ve been in several but not in the NBA. I’ve always enjoyed them, they’re always fun. The crowd pumped up, ready to jump over somebody. You could throw two balls in at one time, call it the “Double Dip in the Single Trip”. Back then, you couldn’t dunk all the time and go just three inches into (the net). If you’re going to dunk this high you’re going to go six inches into it.

Sean: I can’t imagine though how many dunk contests you could have won had there been one when you played.

Darryl: Well, not to build myself up, but I think I would have won a couple of them. Because I was a guy, I didn’t have one or two dunks. I had about 14 or 15 dunks. And I see guys today out there with 3 or 4 dunks, and they’re done. And I think, when I see a guy in a dunk contest asking me what should I do, I worry about him, because I already knew I had 17 dunks, let me go down the line and see what the crowd is feeling. Is it the “Left-Handed Spine Chiller Supreme”? Is it the “Broom-Sweeper Delight”? Is it the “Up Goes Frazier” or the “Down Goes Frazier”? You know, whatever one works. But these guys run out of dunks too soon. I can remember, Iguodala, when he won, or well when we thought he had won the contest, and Nate Robinson did. The only problem he had – he pulled out his best dunk too soon.

Sean: The one off the back of the backboard, right?

Darryl: Yeah. But you can’t wait for last because you might not end up in the finals. You gotta mix it up a little bit in there in order to get the people rocking and reeling. He just pulled it out a little too soon.

Sean: So you’re saying that he had only like 2 or 3 good dunks, then?

Darryl: Yeah, if that was his best one, and that’s the one that would have won the contest, that’s the one should have done last. He’s gotta, and all the dunkers out there, you have to have at least 8 or 9 dunks if you are going to get into a contest. You gotta have 8 or 9. I was fortunate. I had well, at least 17 or 18, because I would try all kinds of different stuff on the playground before I even came into the gym and tried it in a game. So when I got in the game, they said “I didn’t know that he could pick it up with one hand and dunk it like that.” and I would tell them that it’s 6 weeks old. I didn’t care if it was a wet ball, or if I was playing in the dirt. Whenever I saw something I thought “Here’s a chance for me to try that.” and, it worked.

Sean: Well, I feel like we could talk about dunks all day, but we’re running out of time so I want to make sure I get a question in about the Sixers since I write about them. How do you feel about the progress of the team under Doug Collins? They had a 14-win improvement and seem to have a chance to get better in the future. What do you think about the talent on the roster?

Darryl: Well, number one, you guys got a good man in Doug Collins, who I lived with for a month before I played in the big leagues. I think you gotta let basketball people do basketball. And, a lot of times, people don’t do basketball by using the right people. And they look at it as a business opportunity. That’s what they do – they look at it as an opportunity to make money. But when you let basketball people do basketball, you give them a chance to get the draft picks that they can get, the trades for the players that they can get, and run the offense they want to run, choose who’s playing and for how many minutes, it makes a big difference. I think that if they leave Doug Collins alone and let him put his plan into place, he’s gonna be a fine, fine, fine basketball coach who will change Philadelphia. And it’s gonna be like when we were there, Philly was a pretty big basketball town. He’ll be back, and the Sixers will be back and relevant again. That’s what we want to see.