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Offseason Beat

Shoe shopping with Darryl Dawkins

by Steve Alexander
Updated On: June 24, 2020, 11:45 am ET

A weird thing happened on Monday, as there was actually some NBA news to report. It’s going to happen a lot going forward, as the ‘Transaction Window’ starts on Tuesday and will last a week, when teams can sign players to replace injured guys, or ones who don’t want to go play in Orlando.

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The big news stories from Monday were:

Wizard Davis Bertans will return to Latvia and skip Orlando in order to not jeopardize his pending free agency. It’ll cost him $600K, but I think it’s the smart move.

Trevor Ariza won’t be in Orlando with the Blazers in order to spend time with his 12-year-old son as a custody battle ensues. The boy’s mother granted Ariza a one-month visitation window and he is climbing through it. Another admirable move. It's Gary Trent time, baby. 

The Kings will sign Corey Brewer for the third time for the Orlando run. I don’t expect him to have any fantasy value, but he’s a good, tough defender and will be a nice add for the Kings.

And news emerged on Monday that the Mavericks’ Courtney Lee suffered a left calf injury during the hiatus that required surgery and he’s done for the season. The Mavs (and Luka Doncic) love Lee’s leadership and reports have surfaced that they won’t waive him in order to pick someone else up.

Tuesday should be a busy day at Rotoworld, but I’ll take this momentary lapse in action as an opportunity to give you another shoe story (and talk about myself). This one, which was again pulled from the unpublished book I’ve got sitting in the hopper, is about the time I took Darryl Dawkins shopping for a pair of shoes after his luggage was stolen. Enjoy.

Shoe Shopping with Chocolate Thunder (Darryl Dawkins)

The Darryl Dawkins story might be the most unbelievable one I’ve got in a long line of nearly unbelievable stories, but I swear it happened. Dawkins was a hero of mine and most other kids my age, as he became an overnight sensation for obliterating a pair of NBA backboards in November and December of 1979, when I was in fifth grade. In addition to his backboard-shattering dunks, he was the first player ever drafted straight out of high school, lived on what he called ‘Planet Lovetron’ and named all of his dunks.

The first shattered backboard, right on top of a player named Bill Robinzine, was dubbed ‘The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam’ by Dawkins, after he brought down a rain of glass on a ducking Robinzine. He also forced the NBA to figure out how to protect backboards, resulting in the collapsible rims we still see used today. Robinzine sadly took his own life in 1982. RIP.

I met Dawkins outside of the elevators at the Indy Hyatt on Feb. 4, 1986 and I was pretty psyched to see him walk off the elevator. When I asked him for his shoes he replied with an unbelievable answer. “Man, I’d love to give you my shoes, but someone stole all my s***,” he said. “I don’t have shoes, I don’t have a uniform, I don’t have any of my stuff,” he lamented. “What I need is a shoe store that has a size 14 basketball shoe.”  “I got you, man,” I said. I told him there was a sporting goods/shoe store in the mall across the street and that I could take him over there if he wanted. “Let’s go,” he said.

So, freaking Darryl Dawkins and I headed off to the mall together, just the two of us, in search of some shoes for him to wear in an NBA game set to tip off in about two or three hours against the Pacers. We made our way to the store and told the salesperson that we needed a size 14 high top, leather basketball shoe. The kid returned a few minutes later with a pair of Pony City Wings, size 14. Ironically, Dawkins was signed by Pony and he hastily tried them on, said they were fine, and we went to the register, where he paid for them out of his wallet. Luckily, Dawkins’ wallet was not in his luggage that night as there was no way I had a credit card or enough cash to hook him up. I was just a kid, but I’m pretty sure I had a $5 bill in my pocket, which is all it took to get into a Pacer game at that point. I believe kids tickets were half price and then we would just move down to whatever seats were open to watch the game.

On the walk back to the Hyatt I told Dawkins that I’d love to have his shoes after the game and he said something like, “I owe ya kid, they’re all yours after the game. I’d never wear these things again anyway.” And while I don’t remember much of the story after that, Dawkins played 27 minutes and had 13 points and two rebounds in a 117-101 Nets loss to the Pacers that night.

As usual, I waited outside the locker room and he came out, signed one of the Pony’s and gave them to me. I never saw him again and he passed away of a reported heart attack on August 28, 2015 in Pennsylvania at the age of 58.

His shoes were the final pair of the 35 I was able to obtain from NBA players and I was a senior in high school. Once I left Indianapolis and went to Hanover College, I got out of the shoe game. It’s a lot easier to get a pair of shoes from one of your heroes if you’re a kid and not a six-foot-tall young man, obviously. But despite the fact he was nearing the end of his career and they are Pony City Wings, Dawkins’ shoes remain one of my most prized possessions. And the story still blows me away, even though I lived it.

Here’s to the end of my shoe stories (I haven’t even told y’all about Dominique Wilkins, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Isiah Thomas, Clark Kellogg, Akeem Olajuwon, Mark Eaton and many others, but maybe someone will want to publish my book one day).

Here’s to the return of the NBA and sports in general. NBA players and teams will be back and entertaining us again before you know it!

Lastly, my friend Doug Marvin, who was in Dirty on Purpose and runs with the Parquet Courts, made a record during quarantine. And it's amazing. He sums up feelings about being isolated, wearing a mask, living in a new world, etc. perfectly. I'd much rather hear about it here than on the news. Check it out for free at Bandcamp under Pursesnatchers and buy it if you're so inclined. He basically did this in his basement over the last few months. And it's amazing. https://pursesnatchers.bandcamp.com The Album is called The Pause. Check it. 

Steve Alexander
Steve "Dr. A" Alexander is the senior editor for the NBA for Rotoworld.com and a contributor to NBCSports.com. The 2017-18 NBA season marks (at least) his 16th year of covering fantasy hoops for Rotoworld. Follow him on Twitter - @Docktora.