Sometimes Darryl Dawkins makes if difficult to see past his Chocolate Thunder, Lovetron, Dr. Funkstein exterior. But he has proven to the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association championship series that he can put that jive aside and dominate the game.
"We'd heard some funny stories about him before the series," said the Lakers' Magic Johnson. "But there's nothing funny about the way he plays. He wants to win bad and it shows."
"You've got to be around Darryl all the time to really appreciate him," said Phildelphia 76er teammate Julius Erving. "Darryl does and says all of that crazy stuff strictly for show and because it's fun for him. Once the game starts, though, he's for real.Darryl knows exactly what's going on."
At 6-foot-11 1/2, 265 pounds, Dawkins probably is the most impressive physical specimen in the league. As he said after he scored 26 points and led the 76ers to a 105-102 victory over the Lakers Sunday that evened the series at 2-2, "God blessed me with a beautiful body and I try to use it the best way I can."
The Lakers have gone all out to stop Erving and that has enabled Dawkins to use his body on them. He was the difference in both Philadelphia victories.
"I said Darryl was the key to the Boston series and he is the key to this series," Erving added. "No matter what I do or don't do, Darryl has to play well for us to win. It's that simple. Darryl doesn't want to admit that he's that important to our success, but he knows he is."
"We have to have, Darryl in the game," said Coach Billy Cunningham. "Any time he gets in foul trouble or doesn't play 35 minutes, we lose."
That has indeed been the case so far in this series.
Dawkins guarded Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the first game, got into early foul trouble and fouled out while playing only 18 minutes. Philadelphia lost.
In the second game, he was switched to Jim Chones, which kept him out of foul trouble, and he took Abdul-Jabbar outside and hit jump shots over him. He played 39 minutes, scored 25 points and the 76ers tied the series.
In the third game, Dawkins again fouled out while playing only 30 minutes. The 76ers again lost.
In Sunday's game, he went into his Wilt Chamberlain imitation and powered inside, dominating the game for 41 minutes as the 76ers evened the series.
"The first game we won Darryl did it from the outside; Sunday he did it inside," said Cunningham. "That just shows his flexibility. The man is unique. He's no Kareem, but in his own right, he's almost just as effective."
In one fascinating two-minute stretch of the third period Sunday, Dawkins almost single-handedly put the 76ers back in the game and gave them the lift they needed to win.
Two straight times down the floor Dawkins ignored the 6-11 Chones' vain effort to stop him and muscle in layups.
After the second one, he hustled upcourt in time to swat away an Abdul-Jabbar jump shot. He then scored on a crunching dunk that had Abdul-Jabbar cowering beneath him, trying not to get hurt.
Just when it looked like he was the strongest the man in the world, Dawkins moved outside and swished a soft 16-footer.
"That was impressive," said Abdul-Jabbar. "When someone as strong as he is gets the ball inside, there isn't much anyone can do with him. You just hope he does go outside."
"I can't explain how I did what I did Sunday or why," Dawkins said. "I just did it."
Comparisons between Dawkins and Abdul-Jabbar are inevitable, even though most experts don't put them in the same class. However, Dawkins is 10 years Abdul-Jabbar's junior, still learning how to play the game. Abdul-Jabbar is all finesse, while Dawkins still is getting by on his power. a
It was once said that if there was a quarter on top of the backboard, Abdul-Jabbar could jump up and grab it. Dawkins probably would pull the whole basket down and pick the quarter up out of the rubble.
Coach Paul Westhead said the Lakers will cintinue to double-team Erving in Wednesday's fifth game at the Ingelewood, Calif., Forum, but he may switch Abdul-Jabbar back onto Dawkins.
The 76ers beat the Laker double team on Erving Sunday by isolating him on one side of the court. The move caught the Lakers off guard.
The 76ers have had trouble at the shooting-guard position, where Lionel Hollins has shot only 37 percent (22 for 60) and Henry Bibby is 24 percent (five for 21).
As a result, Erving has played some at that position in the last two games.
Hollins did have his best game Sunday, 18 points and 13 assists.