TOYS AND GAMES: Farewell Chocolate Thunder

Darryl Dawkins: Physical specimen. Larger than life. Pretty good basketball player, too. Everybody loved “Chocolate Thunder.”

Sadly, he died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 58.

Dawkins graduated from Maynard Evans High School in Orlando in 1975, the same year I graduated from Plant High. He led Evans to a state championship that season  — routing Tampa’s Robinson High School in the 4A championship — then went directly to the NBA.

Darryl Dawkins
Darryl Dawkins

During Evans’ Dawkins-led run to the championship, they visited Tampa to play at Hillsborough High. After that game, the Orlando entourage somehow ended up at the McDonald’s on Kennedy Boulevard.

The setting resembled a slice of Americana straight from a Norman Rockwell painting. The “Yellow Dogs” — school buses — were parked at the back of the lot and the Evans cheerleaders, students and basketball team were jammed inside the building.

My friend, Joe Mathis, caught my attention. “Chester, you’ve got to see this.”

He ushered me to an area of the restaurant where we watched as students delivered sacks of food to the table of a smiling giant — a king receiving his riches. That giant turned out to be the one and only Darryl Dawkins, the largest human being I’d ever seen.

Intrigued by Dawkins after that chance encounter, I closely followed his NBA career, enjoying his backboard-breaking antics and humor along the way. I particularly liked the nicknames he acquired — “Sir Slam” and “Dr. Dunkenstein” — and the names he assigned to his assortment of dunks — the “Go-Rilla,” the “Look Out Below,” and, my favorite, the “In Your Face Disgrace.” Least we forget he hailed from the planet “Lovetron.”

Few sports figures have ever been as colorful.

Upon hearing of his death, a teenager sitting inside McDonald’s came to mind. The cheeseburgers resembled breath mints melting on his tongue. A glorious future awaited. Darryl Dawkins was invincible.

R.I.P. Big Guy.

TOYS AND GAMES: Dad’s Diet Pills

The question seemed benign enough: “What made you decide to go into business for yourself?”

My father wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself, so he shared things others might not have. Like the answer to the above-mentioned question.

Pops moved us to Florida in the early 1960s when Tidewater Construction transferred him to Tampa from Cumberland, Maryland — the place, according to my father, where God would have inserted an enema for the world had it been needed.

Growing up during the Depression, Pops ate many suppers of collard greens and cornbread only. So he always cleaned his plate as an adult. That translated to more weight than he wanted carry and, eventually, to a diet.

Remember, this is the early 1960s and the options were limited. No Atkins Diet. No Jenny Craig. No Paleo. However, diet pills were available.

Pops got on a program.

No telling what kind of kick those puppies packed, but you do the math. The weight began to fall off. Pops’ energy and ambition soared. Lean and mean, he gave his notice at Tidewater and set out to conquer the world.

I still wonder if Norman Chastain Construction Company, Inc. would have been born without those diet pills.


According to the Los Angeles Times Daily Dish, a Japanese beverage company, Suntory, recently launched whiskey samples into space. Once they reached the International Space Station, a year-long maturation project began. Since many different factors can serve in making a smoother whiskey, the company hopes to find out if exposure to micro-gravity will accomplish that.

Whether the experiment yields any tangible results, you’ve got to believe that we’re inching closer to intergalactic bars like the one featured in Star Wars. Creepy.


The following were gleaned from the Internet. Each brought a smile:

– The fact that jellyfish have survived for 650 million years despite not having brains gives hope to many people.

– Breaking News: Washington Redskins drop the word “Washington” from their name because it’s embarrassing.

– Shopping with your husband is like hunting with the game warden.

-If you’re having a bad day, just remember someone from your hometown is still trying to become a rapper.


My favorite one, which called The Wizard of Oz “the ultimate chick flick” because it features “two women fighting over shoes.”


Finally, I don’t know if anything will come of Burger King’s proposal to McDonald’s to come together to create a McWhopper on “Peace Day.” All I know is I’d sure like to eat one.