A Letter To Darryl Dawkins


To Darryl Dawkins,

When I was young, my father would tell me about this incredible basketball player who was so strong, he could take down the whole hoop if he wanted to. He was my dad’s favorite player. He told me this player had earned the nickname “Chocolate Thunder” because of how hard he would come down on the rim.

My young mind started to envision this player as somewhat of a myth, not seeing video of the player, just going off of what I had pictured in my head. I pictured him as the Hulk in a Sixers jersey. As I grew older the name “Darryl Dawkins” became associated with the mythical dunker I pictured in my head. I started to look up any video I could find of you, whether it would be the shattering backboards or the ravenous rebounds, I was amazed. You were the player I wanted to watch over and over again.

I was 13 years old when you walked into my family’s restaurant with your wife, and you had to bend down to walk through the door. I recognized you instantly from all the videos I had  watched. I wanted to say hello and ask for an autograph, but I was too shy. In fact, I was star struck. What was the bus boy supposed to say to the Chocolate Thunder? After my shift I went home and couldn’t wait to go back to work, knowing there would be a chance for you to walk through that door, so I could introduce myself.

You walked in a few months later with your wife and your kids. I slowly went up to you, shaking with every step I took. I’ll never forget how I tried to spit out my first words, but before I could finish my stuttering you turned your head and flashed the signature smile I saw in the highlight videos and said, “come over here little man.” I introduced my self and stuck my hand out to shake yours. When you did, I joked to you “where’d my hand go?” as it disappeared into your huge mitts. You started to laugh. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “I made Darryl Dawkins laugh.” I told him how he was my dad’s favorite player and he asked me if I wanted an autograph, I told him all I wanted was for him to come in when he could and tell me “cool” basketball stories. After more small talk, you left, and I went home with a huge smile, anxiously waiting to tell my dad about my day.

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Over the next 7 years, you would come into the restaurant and tell me stories with such vivid imagery, ranging from how you and some other American NBA alumni would play former NBA player from across the world, to stories of the locker room you shared with Sixers greats like Julius Erving and Mo Cheeks, to your desires of creating your own dessert based off of your nickname. I appreciated the way you would acknowledge every fan that came up to you with a smile. I appreciated the way our handshakes would turn into an odd looking hug because of your massive size and my 5’8 stature. I appreciated how close your family was to each other. I also appreciated the way you would inspire me to do “great things.”

Because of you I love being around the game of basketball. You were such a pleasure to speak to, and you would answer any question I would ask you about the game. You would joke to me how they “don’t make no more big guys like me in the league” anymore. You were loved everywhere you went, and for good reason. The way you represented yourself as such a warm and approachable person, made me want to meet more people like you. The problem is, Darryl, there is no one like you. And there never will be anyone like you. There will never be the former NBA stud who would help a 16 year old look for his gold cross in a high school gym filled with people. You were simply a terrific human being. With all the battles you had to go through in your basketball career, you never let it affect your personality or view on life.

The past two years I have spent at college, we would see each other less, but whenever we did, you would still give me that awkward looking hug and you would still have new stories to tell me. We sometimes communicated over social media when we had the opportunity, but I never got the chance to tell you how much I appreciate you and everything you’ve taught me on how to live life. Looking back, the “mythical dunker” I envisioned turned into my kindest friend.

We will all miss you Dawk, and we will never forget the human you were.



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