By Eric Neel
Some sentences read like delightful surprises, like presents under the tree. Here's one: Darryl Dawkins has written a book.
Some sentences send you reeling happily back to a simpler, more lovely time, when backboard glass rained from the sky and postgame interviews were full of wild, fresh, unpredictable quotes. Here is such a sentence: Darryl Dawkins has written a book.
1. Tell me about the dunks and the rhymes. Did the dunk come before the rhyme or did the rhyme come before the dunk?
Dawkins: The dunks always came before the rhymes. The first one, I was playing with Jelly Bean Bryant, Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Doug Collins and World B. Free, and I had to let 'em know that I was somebody. So when I got the first dunk, I turn around to a guy named Abdul Jalaan and I say, "Your Mama." Everybody said, "What was that?" I said, "That's my 'Your Mama' dunk."
Then I had the 'Get out the wayin', back-door swayin', game delayin', if you ain't groovin' you best get movin' dunk,' and the 'Chocolate Thunder flyin', glass flyin', Robizine cryin', parents cryin', babies cryin', glass still flyin', rump roasting, bun toasting, thank you wham ma'am I am' jam. Had the 'heart-stopper', the 'rim-wrecker', the 'left-handed spine-chiller supreme', the 'turbo sexophonic delight'. I had a lot of fun with it.
If you and I were going head-to-head on the Nerf hoop in my office right now and you threw one down on me, what would you call it?
Dawkins:That would be the butt-buster.
What, can you see me?
Dawkins: (Laughs) I can't see you, but I can feel you and you're getting the butt-buster.
My wife says I suffer from 'noassatall.'
Dawkins: (Laughs) We put guys like you on the All-Back Team.
2. If I could give you the chance to either suit up to play one more regular-season game in the NBA tonight, or to coach a championship game at, say, the high school level, which would you choose?
Dawkins: I think I would probably suit up one more time, just to bump and bang with some big guys. Coaching high school would be fun. But the thrill of going out there with some of these guys they have now with big reputations and big names, and stand in there, and let 'em see they really can't move a real man, that they've just been moving these kids around -- I would have fun doing that.
I get the feeling youıre not entirely impressed with today's NBA centers.
Dawkins: Well, you know, there's only two centers, really, who play with their backs to the basket. Not a lot of guys can play with their backs to the basket. They have more 'fours' in the league playing 'five' than ever before. Jermaine O'Neal is a 'four', the big white kid who plays with him (Brad Miller) is a 'four', and they try to put 'em over as 'fives.' Thatıs when guys, when teams, get hurt, because when they play a real 'five,' like Shaq, there's just too much weight and too much low-post experience. Of course, a 'five' can't go out on the floor and guard a 'four,' either.
Do you miss the big fives?
Dawkins: I do, because when I played with Elmore Smith, Bob Lanier, Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, and Tommy Boerwinkle -- 7-foot-1 and 400 pounds -- I miss bumping and banging with those guys and seeing them get up and down the floor, lumber up and down the floor and use their bodies to the point where other guys, better jumpers, couldn't get up over 'em. Wes Unseld wasn't tall and he wasn't much of a jumper, but he knew how to position his body.
Those guys weren't all that tall, but they had some big ol' butts.
Dawkins: Oh, yeah. The gift of butt was a beautiful thing then, man. I used to love to get down there and just put one cheek on a guy, and then be able to dribble wherever I wanted to go, man.
3. What's the biggest difference between the young Darryl and Darryl today?
Dawkins: Well, if I had to do it all over again, I'd probably do it the same way. But the big difference in me is that as I got older I realized I wasn't going to play forever, and I started to say, "Wait a minute, if your feet stay on the ground a little, when this career is over you won't have to come crashing back to earth." My brother is my minister, and he helped me settle down and pay attention to what matters. I don't profess to be a saint, but my life is better now. I've got my wife and an 11-month-old son, and a daughter due to be born in three weeks.
Congratulations. Do you think you appreciate these things more now because of the lifestyle you lived as a younger man?
What do you mean?
Dawkins: I'm talking about these guys carrying their posses around. It's getting to the point where, you know, the posses are wantin' to fight each other. And, you know, somebody's gonna want to shoot somebody one of these days.
Do you understand why guys want to have their posses around? Can you empathize with them?
Dawkins: I understand. I kept most of my brothers with me; that was my posse. And I understand, you want your people around you. But when you're taking your boys around and they're constantly getting in trouble, it's going to bring your name down. I understand they don't want their boys to think they punked out on 'em, but you got to watch out because it sometimes gets to the point where your boys can hurt you, you know?
4. You say in your book that one of the things you thought about doing outside of basketball is working with troubled kids. Do you see yourself doing that at some point?
Dawkins: I'm constantly working with kids now. I'd estimate I see between 7,000 and 8,000 kids a summer doing basketball camps and 'Say No to Drugs' programs. I think I can tell the young kids: Donıt do as I did, do as I say. And that's a lot of fun for me because if they listen to me they can see what mistakes look like and maybe avoid 'em down the road.
But you know if they read your book theyıre going to say, "Yeah, but look at Darryl -- he did all kinds of things you're not supposed to do: partying, doing drugs and stuff!"
Dawkins: Theyıre going to read the book. But I told everybody, "Look, this is not for the Christian bookstore. It's not for little kids." Thatıs why it says the 'Uncensored' Life and Times! Parents are gonna leave it on the coffee table or wherever, and kids are going to see it and they're going to say, "Oooh, Darryl was a bad dude!" But when they see where I am now, I hope they say, "Boy, he must've really undergone a serious change because look at him now!"
5. This naturally enough makes me want to ask you some questions about Lovetron.
Dawkins: Lovetron was a planet that I even thought about in high school, and everybody'd say, "Man, you crazy." It was just a planet in my own little mind that I could escape to. And it was a drug-free planet, you know. It was just, 'you get your girl and you go off and y'all just chill out somewhere.' And it was Lovetron. And it was a lot of fun for me. I started to talk about it in Philadelphia, you know, and I thought people would think I was crazy, but people said, "I like that!"
Dawkins: Love, love, love and more love. That's it!
6. You talk in your book about the difference between 'White Basketball' and 'Black Basketball.' Can you explain it?
Dawkins: White basketball is pick-and-roll, spot-up, guy got his toes together and he shoots. And white guys will box you out until the ball hits the floor. Black guys will jump over you. They had all kind of shake-n-bake and would do everything to entertain the crowd. Nowadays, people appreciate both styles of ball; but back then, they didnıt appreciate when a black guy just played white ball. They just said, "Hey, man, ainıt you got no flash in your game?"
Did only whites play white basketball?
Dawkins: No, they had some black guys that played white basketball. Otis Birdsong used to play white basketball for a while when he first came up. People used to say, "Come on, Otis, you got to put a little something in there." Yeah, then he eventually got loose and started to dunk on people and stuff.
Who represents the height of black basketball right now?
Dawkins: For the show, Iıll take Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, (Paul) Pierce. These guys represent real black basketball because they will shake, bake and talk trash to you. The guy down in Orlando, McGrady. Him, too. These guys all have a lot of heart, too. Theyıll step up and take the last shot. So many times you play with guys and they will not take the last shot of the game because they donıt want anybody to saying anything about them.
7. What advice do you have for LeBron James? Because in coming out after high school, he's trying to do what you did.
Dawkins: First thing he has to do is get his mother under control. Once he does that, I think if he surrounds himself with good people, and a good agent, and not people who are out to rob him, I think he'll be fine. A guy coming from high school going to the pros now, gets . . . what? A $10 million signing bonus, and $8- or $9 million a year? He'll be fine. I think it's only a matter of time before the owners start to realize they'd better stop paying that kind of money. So if you have an opportunity to get it now, you'd better go get it, that's what I say. Go back to college later. I always teach education, but this kind of money isnıt going to be around forever.
Dawkins: You know what, Shaq gets to the top of the key and he walks down to his spot. And when he gets to his spot, he can score eight out of 10 times, let's say. So what I wonder is, why let him walk down there? I would start banging him at the top of the key; and by the time he got down there to the box, you know Kobe and them would have swung the ball another way. I would bump and bang him, and I wouldn't be afraid of him. I think a lot of guys who guard him now just don't want to get hurt. I felt like I had a pretty good 15-16 footer, and he has trouble guarding guys that can shoot from out there.
9. If I made you commissioner of the NBA for a day, what would you change?
Dawkins: The only thing I would do -- I think the sport is marketed better than it's ever been -- is tell a guy, "You can't carry around a nine-or-10-guy posse." What if Paul Pierce has nine guys with him and Allen Iverson has eight guys with him and Iverson busts Pierce up that night, and his boys, who think of Paul as a meal ticket, go over to tell Iverson to knock it off, otherwise they're going to bust a cap on 'em. And it gets ugly in a hurry, you know? I would just say, "Hey, bring your family and a couple of friends, but we're not going to have a car waiting for all of your boys."
10. You say in the book that that absolute best place in the league to meet women when you were playing was Salt Lake City. How can this be true?
Dawkins: Man, it was a smorgasbord. I didn't understand it then or now. I got there and I was just, like, "Where are all these women coming from?!"
Letıs say you have one night left on earth. How are you going to spend it?
Dawkins: Right now, I'd spend it with my kids and my wife.
What's your favorite word?