There were times
when the fast track of pro ball threatened to derail Dawkins. He was young,
single and had money to spend and a willingness to enjoy the pleasures that
await any new sports celebrity in town, especially one with his size and
penchant for the flamboyant. There were women and cars and parties and an
ever-increasing number of glib quotes.
When he showed
little improvement in his basketball skills, his off-court diversions became a
source of irritation to 76er management. "The more the coaches could see
how little he was using his skills, the more they felt they could teach
him," Erving says.
"If he had
one thing that held him back from greatness, it was that he was easily bored.
He had a very short attention span," says Doug Collins, now the coach of
the Chicago Bulls.
surprisingly, agrees with Collins. "If I learned how to do a move, why did
I have to spend another hour doing it 500 more times?" he says. "I
already showed you I could do it." Dawkins complained that former Nets
coach Larry Brown kept him after practice 20 minutes every day for extra work.
Did it help? "I'll admit it helped a little," Dawkins says. "But I
could do most of that stuff in five minutes. Why did I have to stay for
attention span was never more evident than during a practice, recalled by
Cunningham, that Dawkins cruised through without breaking a sweat. "Darryl
wasn't pushing himself, so I stopped practice," Cunningham says. "I
went over to him and really read him the riot act. Really yelled at him. He had
his head down and promised me he would do better." An incredulous smile
forms on Cunningham's face as he finishes the story. "And then as I walked
away—he tripped me! I couldn't believe it. What can you do? I finally cracked
up laughing like everyone else."
Shue, his first
coach in the pros and one whom Dawkins claims to like, says, "Darryl was
always just a fun-loving giant. He enjoyed the good times more than the job. He
should have been a better player, but he could never motivate himself to work
"He loved the money, the action, the limelight; loved the whole scene. He
just never loved basketball."
that. "I used to take losing hard in the beginning. I'd be really
upset," he says. "The veterans would tell me that it would drive you
crazy if you let every loss bother you. There was always a game the next night
to get even. So after that I didn't let each loss bother me as much.
thought you worked hard if you had your tongue hanging out and were grunting
and grimacing. But I go around with a smile on my face, and everyone thinks I'm
not working hard."
team that Dawkins played on his first year in the NBA hardly supplied the
tranquil, stable atmosphere that a player directly out of high school needed.
Back then, the 76ers were often described as a Wild West show. The players were
talented, individualistic, spectacular, controversial and flamboyant. They
swaggered into arenas and dared people to beat them. Cunningham, who was in the
last year of his playing career, says one of the problems was that
"everyone wanted to be a star." There were stars galore throughout the
lineup: established stars like George McGinnis and, the next season, Julius
Erving; rising stars like Collins and Mix; and, of course, the impatient young
trio of rookies, Joe Bryant, Lloyd—now World B.—Free and Dawkins. Says
Cunningham, "Everyone was concerned with projecting a certain image;
fighting for recognition on a very talented team."