At 58 years old, Darryl Dawkins has this physical status:
As a 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) senior at Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, Florida, Dawkins averaged 32 points and 21 rebounds to lead his team to the state championship. He was heavily recruited by Division I colleges across the country, and he narrowed his choices to Florida State, Kansas, and Kentucky.
In a surprise move, Dawkins opted to directly enter the NBA draft out of high school instead of attending college. He made this decision because he wanted to make enough money to help his grandmother, mother and siblings to escape poverty. He was the first player to enter the NBA immediately after high school.
With the fifth overall pick in the 1975 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Dawkins. He was drafted behind David Thompson, David Meyers, Marvin Webster, and Alvan Adams. He signed a seven-year contract worth $1 million.
Dawkins languished on the Sixers' bench for his first two seasons. In his second season, after playing limited minutes during the regular season, Dawkins was called upon to help the Sixers in their playoff run, to battle Dave Cowens of the Celtics and Moses Malone of the Rockets. The Sixers won both playoff series and advanced to the NBA Finals. Matched up against Portland's Bill Walton, Dawkins helped the Sixers take the first two games before the Trail Blazers won the next four to win the series in six games. In the second game of the series, Dawkins got into a fight with Maurice Lucas, resulting in both players being ejected. Dawkins took his anger out on the 76ers locker room by tearing a toilet out of the wall and dislodging a locker stall and barricading the door with it.
Dawkins' role in helping the Sixers win the Eastern Conference championship established him as one of Philadelphia's top players, on a team that included Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Lloyd Free, and Doug Collins. At 20 years old, Dawkins averaged 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds in nearly 25 minutes per game, while ranked second in the league in field goal percentage at .575. For the second straight year, the Sixers earned the top seed in the Eastern Division and advanced to the conference finals, but they were defeated by the Washington Bullets in six games.
Prior to the 1978–79 season, Philadelphia traded McGinnis to the Denver Nuggets, clearing the way for Dawkins to be a permanent frontcourt starter. Over the next three seasons, Dawkins and Caldwell Jones split time at the center and power forward positions. In 1979–80, he averaged 14.7 points and a career-high 8.7 rebounds, helping the Sixers back to the NBA Finals, which they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
In the 1981 season, Dawkins produced a .607 field-goal percentage, second in the NBA to Artis Gilmore's .670. Dawkins averaged 14 points and 7.2 rebounds for the year, but Philadelphia failed to return to the Finals. The club met the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals and lost in seven games.
The 76ers suffered another postseason disappointment in 1982 when they reached the Finals but lost again to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games. Frustrated with the team's inability to handle Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sixers management traded Dawkins to the New Jersey Nets and Caldwell Jones to the Houston Rockets for Moses Malone, who helped Philadelphia win the NBA championship the following year.
Dawkins was traded to the Nets during the 1982 off-season in exchange for a first-round draft pick. At age 25, Dawkins joined a Nets club that included Albert King, Buck Williams, and Otis Birdsong. His first two seasons with the Nets were successful for both sides, as Dawkins experienced a career renaissance of sorts and the Nets had their most successful seasons to that point.
In the 1982–83 season, Dawkins averaged 12 points and shot .599 from the floor, ranking third in the league in field-goal percentage. The Nets' 49–33 record that year was their best record since the ABA–NBA merger, and remained their best record until the 2001–02 season.
The next season, he poured in a career-high 16.8 points per game on .593 field-goal shooting and grabbed 6.7 rebounds per contest. On November 3, 1983, Dawkins grabbed what would be his largest rebound total as a Net, with 15 during a 112–107 win over the Chicago Bulls. Two days later, on November 5, 1983, Dawkins set the Nets' franchise record for blocks in a single game, with 13. In the first round of the playoffs, the sixth seeded Nets were matched up with Dawkins' former team, Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets won the first two games in Philadelphia of the best-of-five series, which were the first playoff game victories in team history. After Philadelphia won the next two games, the Nets won a decisive game 5 when Dawkins' defense on reigning MVP Moses Malone helped New Jersey overcome a late deficit to win their first playoff series. The Nets playoff series win over the defending NBA champions was ranked as the seventh greatest playoff upset by Sports Illustrated. Despite Dawkins averaging 22.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in the following series against the Milwaukee Bucks, including leading all scorers with a career playoff high 32 points in a 106-100 Game 1 win, the Nets would lose the series in six games after losing Game 6, during which Dawkins scored 29 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, by one point, at a score of 98–97. For the playoffs, Dawkins averaged 18.4 points.
With the Nets looking to be a team on the rise led by Dawkins, they entered the 1984–85 with high expectations. However injuries limited him to just 39 games. Dawkins appeared to return to form the following season averaging 15.3 points and shooting .644 from the floor, but an injury midway through the season kept him out of 31 of the team's final 32 games. He only played six games in the 1986–87 season, after a second back surgery in less than two years.
Dawkins was traded to the Utah Jazz in a seven-player, three-team trade during the 1987 offseason. His tenure with Utah lasted just four games before the Jazz traded him to the Detroit Pistons for a pair of second-round draft picks and an undisclosed amount of cash.
Dawkins' personality was a natural fit on the "Bad Boys" Pistons team, and despite being limited to 14 games over two seasons, he was considered to be one of the leaders of the team. Dawkins was often inactive for games as he was still recovering from his back injuries and dealing with the death of his estranged wife. In his final season in the NBA, the Pistons won the NBA championship, and Dawkins finally earned a championship ring.
Dawkins received a training camp invitation from the Orlando Magic for their inaugural season in 1989, but he opted to play in Italy. He spent several seasons in Italy, playing for Torino, Olimpia Milano and Telemarket Forli. He attempted a comeback in 1994, attending Denver Nuggets training camp, and again in 1995 with the Boston Celtics.
Dawkins set an NBA record by committing 386 personal fouls during the 1983–1984 season. He committed one more personal foul during his career than Michael Jordan, despite playing nearly 350 fewer games.
In a game against the Kansas City Kings at Municipal Auditorium on November 13, 1979, Dawkins broke the backboard, sending the Kings' Bill Robinzine ducking. Three weeks later he did it again, this time at home against the San Antonio Spurs at the Spectrum. A few days after that the NBA created a new rule that breaking a backboard was an offense that would result in a fine and suspension.
Dawkins named the first backboard-breaking dunk "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam." He named other dunks as well: the Rim Wrecker, the Go-Rilla, the Look Out Below, the In-Your-Face Disgrace, the Cover Your Head, the Yo-Mama, the Spine-Chiller Supreme, and the Greyhound Special (for the rare occasions when he went coast to coast). The 76ers also kept a separate column on the stat sheet for Dawkins's self-created nicknames: "Sir Slam", "Dr. Dunkenstein", and "Chocolate Thunder." Dawkins also wore gold chain necklaces during games until the end of the 1980 NBA Finals when the NBA banned players from wearing them on court. One gold chain had a cross while the other featured one of his nicknames "Sir Slam" in gold script. He also had a similar necklace that has another nickname "Dr. Dunk" in gold script. Sometimes, Dawkins would also shave his head and have it oiled along with wearing an earring.
At one point, Dawkins claimed to be an alien from the planet Lovetron, where he spent the off-season practicing "interplanetary funkmanship" where his girlfriend Juicy Lucy lived.
Stevie Wonder, who frequently attended Sixers games, gave Dawkins the nickname "Chocolate Thunder".
Following his NBA career, Dawkins had a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters, followed by a season spent with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the Continental Basketball Association in the 1995–96 season. During this season, the Skyforce's games against the Florida Beach Dogs were broadcast nationally by ESPN, as the Beach Dogs included another former NBA player, Manute Bol. In 2005, Dawkins was one of several former NBA players to audition for an analyst position with ESPN, as part of the network's reality series Dream Job.
He was the head coach of the American Basketball Association's Newark Express. He was also the player/coach of the Winnipeg Cyclone, a team in the short-lived International Basketball Association in 1999–2000.
He was the head coach of the Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs of the United States Basketball League until they folded.
On August 20, 2009, Lehigh Carbon Community College (located in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania) announced that Dawkins would be the head coach of their men's basketball team for the upcoming 2009–2010 season.