Whether you remember Darryl Dawkins for being the league’s ultimate backboard shatterer (he broke two of them in the span of three weeks), or for his powerful throw-downs, everyone would agree on one thing – Dawk was one of the NBA’s most intimidating forces.
At 6-11, 251 lbs, his physical presence in the paint, in an era that allowed its manifestation, was a nightmare to deal with for every NBA team from the 70s and 80s. But his basketball legacy stopped at that. Instead of translating his gifts into numbers, Dawkins settled for being nothing more than a reliable NBA contributor. That’s something even Kareem Abdul Jabbar holds against him.
Darryl spent so much time being a clown and not focusing on the finer aspects of the game. Darryl was just incredibly and physically gifted like Shaq. But he didn’t understand his potential and use it the right way.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, USA Today
Dawkins had his best seasons playing in Philadelphia and New Jersey – 1984 was his career year when he put up 16.8 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Nets – but could never take his game to the next level. That’s why most people associate Darryl with things outside of basketball, rather than remembering him as a dominant NBA individual.
Isiah Thomas, Dawkins’ former teammate with the Detroit Pistons, falls in that category. And during the “Players Only” episode alongside Chris Webber and Kevin McHale, he remembered a specific story involving Darryl. It turns out he tried to intimidate Chuck Daly.
He didn’t play one game so he gets on the bus and he goes, ‘Hey Chuck, if you don’t put me in the game tomorrow, I’m gonna show up at your house and I’m gonna be in your backyard waiting.’Isiah Thomas, Players Only
Everyone on the bus started laughing. But Darryl was serious. And what the Pistons head coach did the day after proved he was also serious. Physical intimidation is one thing, but there was no way of scaring Daly into doing something he didn’t want to do. That’s why an all-time great NBA coach came up with an all-time great solution to the problem.
The next day we come to practice, ‘Where’s Dawk at?’ Chuck cut him. He cut him the next day.Isiah Thomas, Players Only
Thus ended Dawkins’ run in the NBA, one many would describe as underachieving. But at least he scared some guys along the way. Everyone except Chuck Daly. That’s when size stopped mattering.