how impressionable he was that first year: "I'd come into the locker room
at halftime and one guy would be smoking a cigarette and another would be
drinking a beer. I just did the same thing."
The team was a
great draw on the road, fueled as much by the controversial statements that
appeared in the press as by the display of talent on the floor. No one was
readier with a quote, a quip, an impersonation or an observation on life than
Dawkins. Neil Funk, the team's broadcaster at the time, says, "Darryl got
lost in the shuffle early with that team. He wasn't playing much at first, and
he tried to get attention with his personality. He tried more than anyone to
say the most outrageous or controversial thing."
imagination was wondrous. He could entertain with tales of interplanetary space
travel or, on a moment's notice, deliver a lecture on the definition of
funk—not Neil. He had a larger-than-life personality and the timing of a
stand-up comic. One moment he would be talking seriously with Collins about his
wish to get married and start a family, and a moment later he would walk
outside the locker room and announce to the waiting throng that he was throwing
a party and every woman in the city of Philadelphia was invited.
Dawkins utilized this kind of behavior as a shield. "Darryl was scared that
he wasn't going to be everything that people projected him to be," Funk
says. "To relieve some of that pressure he hid behind his outrageous
personality. What 20-year-old wouldn't be scared in that situation?" Though
reluctant to admit it, when pressed, Dawkins will confess to the fear.
"Yeah, sometimes it scared me a little." he says. "I didn't know
what else I could do to satisfy everyone. Everyone always expected
76ers. They reached the NBA finals three times during Dawkins's years in
Philadelphia, but gradually management's patience faded, and he was traded, in
1982 at age 25, to the New Jersey Nets.
"Darryl, do you know where they signed the Declaration of Independence?"
"Of course. At the bottom," responded Double D.
The trade to New
Jersey left Dawkins with the feeling that his career was bottoming out. He had
parted on bitter terms with 76ers owner Harold Katz, who made no secret of his
belief that Darryl just did not consistently work hard enough for the money he
was being paid. Dawkins, who had come back after breaking a leg during the
season to participate in the playoffs, thought the gesture was proof enough of
In New Jersey he
went through four coaches in five years, including myself in his last two
seasons. He had both his best and his worst seasons with the Nets.
He either played
well or was recovering from injuries; as always there seemed to be no happy
middle ground for him. In 1984-85, after what Don Nelson thought would be the
turning point in Dawkins's career, he suffered a back injury and missed 43