NBA great Darryl Dawkins has died at 58 years old

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NEW YORK - NBA great Darryl Dawkins died Thursday at the age of 58, a spokesperson at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest hospital in Pennsylvania confirmed.

Dawkins died after suffering a heart attack, his family confirmed in this statement:

"It is with great sadness that we share the passing of our beloved husband and father, Darryl Dawkins, who succumbed today to a heart attack. Darryl touched the hearts and spirits of so many with his big smile and personality, ferocious dunks, but more than anything, his huge, loving heart. His family, wife Janice, children Dara, Tabitha, Nicholas and Alexis, along with countless family, friends, and fans, all mourn his loss. More than anything Darryl accomplished in his basketball career as the inimitable 'Chocolate Thunder,' he was most proud of his role and responsibility as a husband and father. We ask that the public please respect our privacy as we grieve his loss."

A fantastic dunker known for his flash both on the court and off, Dawkins will be remembered as a great entertainer with an eye-popping fashion sense.

Dawkins had an illustrious career in the NBA playing mostly for the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, with short stints with the Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz.

Dawkins got the nickname Chocolate Thunder, thanks to Steve Wonder, for his powerful dunks that left multiple backboards shattered into pieces on the court.

He also played in Italy for two years before joining the Harlem Globetrotters.  Before his official retirement in 2000, Dawkins played for the Continental Basketball Association and International Basketball Association.

He was born in Orlando, Florida and lived in Lehigh, Pennsylvania.  In February, Dawkins was a judge at the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during the NBA All-Star festivities in New York City.

The Brooklyn Nets issued the following statement on his death:

“The entire Brooklyn Nets organization is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of legendary player Darryl Dawkins. As a member of the Nets in the 1980’s, Darryl, known as Chocolate Thunder, entertained fans on the court with his powerful dunks and effervescent personality, and also made an enormous impact in the community. Following his playing career, Darryl remained a part of the Nets and NBA family by serving as an ambassador and sharing his love of the game with countless fans. He had an amazing personality and touched everyone in a positive way. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Dawkins family and to all those who had the pleasure of knowing Darryl. He will be deeply missed.”