August 28, 2015

HE MADE BEING A NET FAN BEARABLE:

RIP DARRYL DAWKINS: BASKETBALL PLAYER, INTERPLANETARY FUNKSMAN, LOVETRONIAN, LEGEND (David Roth, 8/27/15, Vice)

The things that Darryl Dawkins accomplished as a player are not the things for which he is remembered, though, or the reason why he is beloved. It seems worth mentioning that Dawkins led the NBA in true shooting percentage in 1985-86, and that advanced stats rate him as one of the more valuable defensive players in the league during his prime--it's true, after all--but what Dawkins did was, in the moment and in his legend, much less important than how stylishly and distinctively and joyously he did it.

Every bit of what appeared to be nonsense on that mesmerizing poster in Coach's Superstars was part of the myth that Dawkins was deliriously and delightedly building around himself in his every moment. Chocolate Thunder, for instance, was an appropriately musical nickname given to Dawkins by Stevie Wonder, on the occasion of one of Dawkins's acts of wanton backboard destruction. The LoveTron on his uniform, which puzzled me no end--I remember asking my father what LoveTron was, and while I do not recall his answer I promise to call him soon and apologize for putting him in that position--was, Dawkins explained to the legendary good-natured and pro-human Philadelphia sports press, his home planet. During each offseason, Dawkins would return to this planet to practice Interplanetary Funksmanship and spend quality time with his girlfriend, Juicy Lucy.

Dawkins invented this planet in high school, and when he turned pro, at 18, he brought the principles of Interplanetary Funksmanship with him. Foremost among them was the sacred ritual of naming one's slam dunks; he dubbed his first backboard-destroying dunk the Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam-Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam. Basketball as Dawkins played it was more about having the most fun possible than the grim end-to-end domination that was emerging as the NBA's prevailing worldview--"I hope you don't expect me to do it every night," Dawkins famously told the owner of the Sixers after a 30-and-15 game--but, as Walter was just saying, at least it was an ethos.

All of which is sort of a long way of saying that he was an incorrigible, uncoachable kidult of a basketball player; Dawkins said it himself, when his playing career was over. "I should have been sent to Cleveland," he told ESPN in 2010, "because that was where all the uncoachables went at the time." As frustrating as this must have been to the various authority figures struggling in vain to make Dawkins something more prosaic and predictable than what and who he was, it was (apparently) thrilling to watch and fun to behold. There is something uncanny about NBA videos from that time, mostly because their dim dinge is so out of keeping with the technicolor NBA we've come to know since. To watch the highlights of Dawkins dunk is to watch lightning strike a bar full of grim gamblers: something weirder and brighter and more ungovernable than usual flashes through the proceedings, lights them up or sets them ablzae, and then is gone.

Posted by at August 28, 2015 5:09 AM
  

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