Fri Aug 05 09:15am EDT
In annals of NBA lore, former Philadelphia 76ers center Darryl Dawkins stands out as perhaps the most boisterous and active in perpetuating his own mythology. Not many players would name each of their dunks, let alone claim to be from the planet Lovetron, a place where love is the only currency. Artis Gilmore apparently went there once, but otherwise it's a land shrouded in secrecy.
Given his imaginative tendencies, most people would assume that Dawkins had created his own "Chocolate Thunder" nickname. Except, as he tells it, a far more talented person came up with it. From an interview with Dime Magazine (via TBJ):
Dime: How did the nickname Chocolate Thunder originate?
DD: Stevie Wonder used to come the ball games and they would have a guy sitting with him. And the guy would be holding on to his arm, telling him what's going on, and he would say, "Hey, the big chocolate guy just put down a thunder dunk. The chocolate guy with another monster dunk." And Stevie Wonder actually gave me the nickname Chocolate Thunder. So a guy who never saw me can give me that name. I think I can wear that well. I don't even know if he remembers, it's been so long, but I'll keep that.
Ah, that makes total sense. Obviously Stevie Wonder's friend described Dawkins' play in such wondrous detail that the legendary musician was compelled to come up with a nickname. Either that or, as Bomani Jones has argued for years, Stevie isn't blind.
I'm as yet uncertain if this story adds to the Dawkins legend or detracts from it. One of the greatest things about Dawkins is that he's always seemed like an artist stuck in the body of a basketball player -- his mental creativity helped him stand out from other quality big men. If Wonder created the Chocolate Thunder name, then Dawkins basically piggy-backed off a genuine artist. On the other hand, there's something amazing to be said for having a nickname bestowed upon you by an amazing musician at the height of his greatness. That's not something many players can claim. For instance, can you imagine Kanye West christening Monta Ellis(notes) "Fetal Vengeance"?
Whatever the case, it's a great story that we won't soon forget. Congratulations to Chocolate Thunder on all his achievements, none of which will ever touch "Innervisions" or "Songs in the Key of Life."