ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Darryl Dawkins, known for his thunderous dunks and flamboyant nickname, has died.
The Lehigh County Coroner's Office confirmed that Dawkins died Thursday. Following his professional playing career, Dawkins made his home in the Lehigh Valley.
His family released a statement Thursday afternoon, indicating the former NBA great 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 statement said.
The 58-year-old made history in 1975, when he became the first player ever drafted directly from high school to the NBA. The Orlando native played 15 seasons in the NBA, spending the majority of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets.
Dawkins was known as much for his dunks as his playing career. In 1979, Dawkins shattered two backboards in separate games.
Dawkins leaves behind wife Janice, and four children. The family has asked for privacy as they grieve his loss.
"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. 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," Philadelphia 76ers CEO, Scott O'Neil said in a statement.
Following his retirement from the NBA, Dawkins - nicknamed Chocolate Thunder by Stevie Wonder - coached the American Basketball Association's Newark Express and the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs, which played in the Lehigh Valley as part of the now-defunct United States Basketball League.
Dawkins most recently was the former head coach of the Lehigh Carbon Community College men's basketball team.
The former basketball star was pronounced dead at 11:19 a.m. Thursday in Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township, according to Lehigh County Chief Deputy Coroner Andrew Kehm.
An autopsy was performed Friday and the cause as well as the manner of death are pending further forensic studies.
Dawkins resided along Glacier Court in South Whitehall Township.
Allentown, PA 18102