Jumping straight from high school to the pros is not new in the NBA. It may sound simple, but in reality, it’s easier said than done. In fact, it’s one of the toughest decisions young players have to make. And that had been the case with former Philadelphia 76ers big man Darryl Dawkins, who went directly into the NBA from Maynard Evans High School in 1975.
Moses paved the way
Gifted with incredible strength and leaping ability, Dawkins knew early on that he wanted to be a professional basketball player. However, pondering whether to go pro or to college was understandably taxing for a then-18-year-old Dawkins. He needed a guide.
Of course, Dawkins’ family was there to give him some advice, but what the youngster needed was something not heard, but seen. Something that would come from a fellow then-aspiring NBA star who had been there and done that. Fortunately for the young Dawkins, Moses Malone showed him the way.
A year earlier, Malone was also in Dawkins’ shoes and decided to jump straight from high school to the ABA. He was drafted by the Utah Stars in 1974 and became an All-Star in his maiden pro season. It was enough for Dawkins to make his mind up. In the 1975 NBA Draft, the Sixers selected Dawkins as their first-round fifth overall pick.
“Moses Malone did help me make up my mind, because I felt that if he could do it, I could do it,” Dawkins told NBA.com in 2011.
In Philly, Dawkins quickly found a home. Aside from Malone, guys like then-Sixers assistant coach Jack McMahon and fellow Sixers rookie World B. Free made Dawkins feel like he made the right decision.
“All these guys helped me along the way,” he added. “Even though I came from high school, I was with guys who were maybe one or two years older than me; so we had our own little bunch of rebels.”
Carving his own path
Despite being a part of a strongly-bonded team, Dawkins eventually made his own identity in the game. Due to his thunderous in-game dunks that shattered backboards, Dawkins earned the moniker “Chocolate Thunder,” a nickname he lived up to for the rest of his life.
“Darryl Dawkins shows up on the bank statements and bank notes, but really I go by Chocolate Thunder,” Dawkins once said.
Looking back, Malone’s fate couldn’t have been the same as every high school basketball phenom. But for Dawkins, there was only one way to find out. And as it turned out, he was also destined to be an NBA star.