by Colin Powers

Along with being one of the more memorable figures in the history of the NBA, Darryl Dawkins is an incredibly nice guy. Amongst the most charismatic, likable players to traverse the American professional ranks, Dawkins drew fans in with his tantalizing athleticism and untouchable creativity as a wordsmith. In the modern era, nothing even approaches the name Dawkins came up with for his backboard shattering dunk: “The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.”

Pressed with financial and familial needs as a young man, Darryl followed the truly groundbreaking path of Moses Malone and jumped the college ranks to arrive in the NBA at the tender age of 18. Drafted by the 76ers, Dawkins played alongside many of the best players of the era, including Dr. J, Doug Collins, and World B. Free. An explosive athlete and absolutely vicious dunker, Dawkins was a fixture in the Association for 14 years until the accumulation of back injuries eventually forced him into retirement.

Through out his playing days, Dawkins was beloved by the fans and media for his gentle and comedic nature. With those effervescent people skills and a profound concern for helping our communities, it should come as no surprise that Dawkins has continued to work for the NBA since the end of his playing days, currently serving as the official tour ambassador of NBA Nation. Beginning on May 1 in Phoenix, NBA Nation presented by T-Mobile USA and Kia Motors will travel to cities across the country to engage fans with a variety of contests, festivities, and the opportunity to talk with the legends of NBA past. In now its fourth year of operation, Darryl and the NBA nation crew will visit Phoenix, Denver, L.A., Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Dallas, bringing with them the “NBA’s largest mobDarryl Dawkinsile basketball playground.”

Amongst the major activities to be featured is the Kia Motors Performance Challenge, a test of fans’ dribbling, passing and shooting skills, the winner of which will drive off in a brand new KIA Sorento. Additionally, fans will have the opportunity to compete in the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown, where each city’s winner will be awarded $1,000 and the chance to battle it out at the NBA All-Star 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown. Darryl only wants to see the creative and powerful stuff, so don’t plan on rehashing any of the old generic favorites if you want to win.

Mr. Dawkins understand this game is the property of the fans, and as a result has gotten intimately involved with a number of NBA initiatives to help spread the game domestically and globally. He sees that everybody does not live in close proximity to an NBA city, nor does everyone have the financial means to purchase tickets in today’s difficult economic climate. As is such, it is important to bring the game to those people who are the real lifeblood of the game. He says, “You know, I didn’t have a whole lot of money coming up, and that was the big reason why I went to the NBA, so that I could provide for my family. I know a lot of people might not be able to come see an NBA game, and that’s why we gotta bring the game to them. That’s why we gotta bring it to the streets.”

From the excitement in his voice, I could tell how much Darryl enjoys these outreach projects; after taking part in past tours, organizers weren’t certain Dawkins would have the energy for or interest in committing to another two month long undertaking, but he jumped at it right away. “I think I surprised them, but it’s just so much fun getting out there and seeing the kids and spreading the game.”

One of the most anticipated moments to come is inevitably the car give-away in Big D. The Kia Sorento will be the much sought after trophy of KIA Motors Performance Challenge, which will feature the champions of each respective city facing off in a winner takes all contest. “You know, someone in Dallas is gonna drive off in that Kia Sorento right then and there. It don’t get better than that. Especially now with all these people struggling.”

It looks to be a fun and exciting tour, so keep an eye out if it’s passing through any of your towns. Just the chance to hang with Big Darryl is worth the time.