According to Dawkins' family, the NBA star died of a heart attack. "It is with great sadness that we share the passing of our beloved husband and father, Darryl Dawkins, who succumbed today to a heart attack. Darryl touched the hearts and spirits of so many with his big smile and personality, ferocious dunks, but more than anything, his huge, loving heart," the family said in a statement.
Dawkins began his NBA career in 1975, when he made history as the first player drafted directly from high school. He spent the majority of his career playing for the 76ers and the New Jersey Nets. Nicknamed the Chocolate Thunder by Stevie Wonder, Dawkins was famous for his dunks. In 1979, he shattered two backboards in separate games.
"The Sixers family is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of an absolute legend, Darryl Dawkins. We've lost a dear friend and an iconic figure, both on and off the court," 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil said in a statement. "We remember fondly not only his thunderous dunks, but more importantly his powerful presence and personality. Simply put, Darryl Dawkins was beloved--by his family, friends, former teammates and his fans all over the globe. His endearing charm, infectious smile and unparalleled sense of humor will be sorely missed. 'Chocolate Thunder' will always have a special place in our hearts. His family is in our thoughts and prayers."
Dawkins is survived by his wife Janice and four children.