Chocolate Thunder was Shaq, Rodman, and Barkley all Rolled into One

DARRYL DAWKINS could probably sue a handful of NBA players for copyright infringement.

Shaquille O'Neal breaks backboards?

Been there, done that. Dawkins shattered two during the 1979-80 season.

Shaq raps?

Dawkins, alias Chocolate Thunder, was rapping when Ice Cube and Vanilla Ice were just twinkles in Jack Frost's eye. Remember "Chocolate Thunder Flying, (Bill) Robinzine Crying, Teeth Shaking, Glass Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Wham, Bam, Glass Breaker, I Am Jam." That was the name Dawkins gave to his first backboard-busting dunk.

Shawn Kemp never played college ball?

Neither did Dawkins. He went straight from high school to the 76ers.

Dennis Rodman is a character?

Dawkins claimed to be from the planet Lovetron, where he was the only male. He said he commuted to Sixers games in the spaceship he kept in his garage.

Dawkins spent 14 years in the NBA, five in Italy and now is a 38-year-old Harlem Globetrotters rookie. He hinted before a game in Tulsa last week that he may have been born 10 years too late.

"Sometimes I do feel like I was a little bit ahead of my time because anytime I was breaking backboards they were penalizing you and making you pay fines for it," said Lovetron's famous citizen.

"Now they take it and use it for a commercial and pay you to do it. I know I was the first to get it started, but they don't owe me anything."

Dawkins always stood for entertainment as much as basketball. The jolly giant (6-11, 280) gave himself several nicknames (among them: Sir Slam, Master of Disaster, Funk Surgeon) and also named his dunks (In Your Face Disgrace, Cover Your Damn Head).

It made him a natural fit for the Globetrotters, who thrive on hocus pocus.

"Basketball is a game," said Dawkins. "All the time when you are growing up, they teach you that a game is played for fun. I took it as fun. I didn't take it serious. A lot of people said I didn't live up to my potential and all that. They compared me to (childhood hero) Wilt Chamberlain. I could never be another Wilt Chamberlain and he could sure never be a Darryl Dawkins.

"I was criticized by the owner in Philadelphia because he wanted me to be out there serious all the time. I went out there to have fun and that's exactly what I did."

Considering the blah label that many attribute to the post-Michael Jordan NBA, couldn't the league use a Darryl Dawkins to liven things up?

"They don't necessarily need me," he said. "They need a player to come in with some imagination, a player to come in to make things more interesting."

Is Dawkins lobbying for a return to the league? Well, sort of. He said "certain teams" have asked if he would like to go to camp, but Dawkins is not interested unless the paycheck is right.

"I ain't going back for one year and $400,000," he said. "I wouldn't do that because in the long run I would probably come out better doing this."

Just because Dawkins is not in the NBA doesn't mean he is void of major league opinions. Some samples:

On the state of the league: "I think now basketball is all about money. If they're going to give you the money, you can't turn around and give it back. But I think it will eventually get to the point where they're fining guys for missing layups and fining guys for missing foul shots."

On current players: "I don't see many guys playing and enjoying the game like they used to. We had guys like Mo Cheeks, Jordan, (Larry) Bird and Magic (Johnson) who would play to set another guy up. They felt just like they scored when you scored. Now the first guy that gets the ball shoots it. Guards, forwards, centers, whatever. Anytime they get the ball, they shoot it."

On the generation gap between veterans and young players: "They don't give you respect now, but that's just the way the world is now, too. When we were growing up, we would help old ladies across the street. Now the young kids drive up and blow their horns and make them jump across the street."

On Rodman: "He's dyed his hair so much maybe he got some dye on his brain. I do respect him as a free spirit because there are not many interesting guys in the league. You don't have guys in this league with imagination now, but he's got to calm down just a little bit."

On O'Neal: "Once Shaquille gets his jump shot and works on his foul shots, he's going to probably be one of the greatest centers ever to play. Right now everybody knows he can dunk the ball. Once he develops a little turnaway jump shot that he can shoot 50-60 percent of the time, he's going to be unstoppable."

On Kemp: "A dynamite ballplayer... What you would look for from him is a little more consistency. He has nights where he can get you 30 and he has other nights where he can get you six or eight."

On Barkley: "I love Charles. Charles and I have had a chance to be together a few times and he entertains the people as well as being a competitor and plays hard all the time. I love him. You can't say enough good things about him."

On Shawn Bradley, who -- as Dawkins once did -- is struggling to meet expectations of Philly fans: "They paid him a whole lot of money, but he's having problems all the time. He's injured and can't really play center now. They need a center down there so he can play forward and go side-to-side blocking shots, because that's what he can do. And they keep putting him at center and he keeps getting hurt because centers take a beating night in and night out. I can remember years ago talking to Caldwell Jones and looking at players. We were saying these guys are just not as durable as old pros. Guys get a hangnail and they can't play. We would be playing with two sprained ankles and separated fingers and shoulders and everything else."

Dawkins, however, played with a healthy sense of humor.

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