Thirty years ago this week, Darryl Dawkins changed professional basketball forever by destroying a backboard. Now, when I say “destroy”, I don’t mean he shot it or blew it up in some sort of off-court stunt. I mean, he threw down a dunk so thunderous that the force of his wrists on the rim pulled it completely out of the glass and shattered the entire backboard.
He did the same thing not quite a month later and that was the last straw for the league. In 1981 the league started using breakaway rims (the NCAA used them in 1978), and the power dunk became the signature move in the league. Mostly gone were the high-flying acrobatic dunks of athletes like Julius Erving (who played with Dawkins on the Philadelpha 76ers), though his tradition does live on after a fashion in the play of Dewayne Wade and LeBron James. But, players like Dominique Wilkins, whose monstrous windmill dunks won him repeated slam-dunk contest championships, dominated the highlight reels. The new rims even allowed smaller player to play big man for a little while. Spudd Webb, who at 5’6″, would never have thrown down a rim-rattler on the old rims, found that the extra inch or two of slack from the breakaway rims let him dunk with the very best of them (by the way, the guy making the OMG face at the 1:15 mark is Michael Jordan).
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, mind you. A well-timed power dunk, where one player drives hard down the lane and posterizes another player can be a game-changer. Watch what LeBron (and, believe me, it hurts to post this) does with one power move during a playoff game. Basketball fans live for this stuff.
Of course, the posterizer can become the posterized, too. That’s what Darryl Dawkins gave the game.
Category: Hoops Happenings