Darryl Dawkins, the former NBA star whose powerful dunks earned him the nickname "Chocolate Thunder," died Thursday of a heart attack at the age of 58, his family said.
"It is with great sadness that we share the passing of our beloved husband and father, Darryl Dawkins, who succumbed today to a heart attack," his family said in a statement issued through the NBA.
"Darryl touched the hearts and spirits of so many with his big smile and personality, ferocious dunks, but more than anything, his huge, loving heart."
In 1975, Dawkins was the first player drafted out of high school into the NBA -- as the fifth overall selection by the Philadelphia 76ers.
He went on to play 15 seasons with four teams: the Sixers (1975-82), the New Jersey Nets (1982-87), the Utah Jazz (1988) and the Detroit Pistons (1988-89).
Dawkins shot 57.2 percent for his career, scoring 8,733 points and blocking 1,023 shots.
His dunks -- which the player dubbed with names such as "Rim Wrecker" -- were so powerful that he shattered two backboards in 1979.
After his NBA career, he spent two years playing in Italy before joining the Harlem Globetrotters.
Eventually he made the transition to coaching, guiding the American Basketball Association's Newark Express and the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs of the United States Basketball League.
He most recently had coached at Lehigh Carbon Community College.
"The NBA family is heartbroken by the sudden and tragic passing of Darryl Dawkins," the league said in a statement.
"We will always remember Darryl for his incredible talent, his infectious enthusiasm and his boundless generosity.
"He played the game with passion, integrity and joy, never forgetting how great an influence he had on his legions of fans, young and old."
Dawkins's wife Janice and the rest of his family asked for privacy as they mourn him.
"More than anything Darryl accomplished in his basketball career as the inimitable 'Chocolate Thunder,' he was most proud of his role and responsibility as a husband and father," his family said in their statement.
"We ask that the public please respect our privacy as we grieve his loss."