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Meet the new Basketball Hall of Famers: Jamaal Wilkes

Sep 3, 2012, 2:11 PM EDT

wilkes-lakers Getty Images

Legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn used to call Jamaal Wilkes baseline jumper a “20-foot layup.” It was that automatic. Magic Johnson would drive the lane, kick it out and you knew it was two.

And that shot, with its eccentric form that would make Shawn Marion wince — Wilkes swung the ball behind his left ear and shot it from basically behind his head — was how we often remember Wilkes.

But he was a lot more than that. He was a great player on both ends of the floor seemingly always overshadowed by being on the team with some of the best and most flamboyant ever — Bill Walton in college at UCLA, Rick Berry first then Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the NBA. Wilkes never really drew attention to himself, on and off the court. His nickname was “Silk” because he was that smooth.

Pat Riley said Wilkes’ shot “was like snow falling off a bamboo leaf it was so smooth.” That would probably be the most poetic line Riley ever uttered, but it is true.

You never really noticed Wilkes during the game, yet you’d look up at the end and he’d have 25 points.

Look at it this way: When you talk about the great individual games every played Magic Johnson’s 1980s Game 6 in the NBA finals comes up — Magic scored 42 points and played all five positions that night, scoring 42 points with 15 rebounds and 7 assists leading the Lakers to the NBA title.

Wilkes had 37 points and 10 rebounds in that game, including 16 points in a crucial third quarter for the Lakers. But as always, he was crucial to the win but would be overshadowed in history.

He put up impressive career numbers in the NBA — 17.7 points and 6.2 points per game — but the accolades say why he is getting inducted: three-time NBA champion (one with Golden State, who drafted him No. 11 overall), three time NBA All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year, two time NBA All-Defensive team member. And as the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame covers all levels of a person’s career we can throw in two-time NCAA All-American and three time NCAA champion.

Come this weekend, he will not be overshadowed. It is Wilkes deserved time in the spotlight. And in the basketball Hall of Fame.

  1. Mr. Wright 212 - Sep 3, 2012 at 2:22 PM


  2. zblott - Sep 3, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    And the watering down of the HOF continues. That “automatic shot” of Wilkes made him ALMOST a 50.0% FG shooter for his career and 76% from the FT line…and keep in mind that includes the huge bump he gets for playing on a fastbreak Lakers teams that always lead the league in FG% because of their style and masterful distributor (see also: Amar’e with and without Nash). In the 6 years he didn’t play with Magic, Wilkes shot a terrible .467 (again see Amar’e with and without Nash).

    But he did also have those two 2nd-team All-Defensive awards. Maybe those are what did it.

    If you want to see what actual HOF-caliber SF’s look like, here’s a list of the top 13 of all-time, none of which Wilkes was anywhere near touching:

    • rjlink1 - Sep 4, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      The Hall of Fame thing kind of surprises me, I agree. And I was a huge fan of Wilkes at UCLA and on the Lakers. I guess it depends on what the standard for Hall of Fame is these days. If it’s a little bit relaxed, then I have no problem with Wilkes in there.

  3. cosanostra71 - Sep 3, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    congratulations to a well-deserving Lakers legend

  4. fotydaze - Sep 3, 2012 at 5:34 PM


    Come on man, even if he isn’t considered as great as those other smalls doesn’t mean he’s not a hof’er he came up big on the clutch more than once. You speak of watered down, what about the amount of haters in the world?…pretty watered down too. Why don’t we congratulate him for his accomplishment WELL DONE JAMAL

    • zblott - Sep 3, 2012 at 7:54 PM

      What exactly is your definition of a HOFer? The best I can come up with to include Wilkes is someone who saw his so-so stats and perceived value increase dramatically by playing next to 2 of the 5 best players of all-time on a popular club that was always on TV. Please tell me what a HOFer is because I can’t come up with anything beyond “decent role-player when playing beside greatness” to describe Wilkes as one.

  5. lakerluver - Sep 3, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    Ugliest jumper ever! But he was deadly from the corners! Congrats, Silk!!

  6. ep2404 - Sep 3, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Congrats Cornbread !!!!!

  7. test2402 - Sep 3, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    I need a budwieser.

  8. dedalus13 - Sep 4, 2012 at 3:10 AM

    “Pat Riley said Wilkes’ shot “was like snow falling off a bamboo leaf it was so smooth.” That would probably be the most poetic line Riley ever uttered, but it is true.”

    It sounds weird because this is not from Riley. This is from Paul Westhead. On top of my head, he was a teacher of english litterature by training.

    • dedalus13 - Sep 4, 2012 at 4:30 PM

      NB: for once my memory did not betray me. I read that in Magic Johnson autobiography, where he reveals that Westhead was an english professor and a Shakespeare specialist.

  9. addict2sport - Sep 4, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    zb, until you get a vote your definition of a hall of famer doesn’t matter.

  10. manchestermiracle - Sep 4, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    “Smooth as silk Wilkes” was an integral part of successful Laker teams, played a complete team game (including great defense) and was quite happy letting the bigger egos grab the spotlight.

    Lousy research, Kurt. Wilkes won four NBA titles, not three. Golden State in ’75 when he won rookie of the year and ’80, ’82, and ’85 with the Lakers. He didn’t play in the ’85 finals due to injury, but he was certainly a crucial reason they got there. Wilkes was a winner in high school, college and the pros. He was part of the record-setting UCLA Bruins’ 88-game win streak and won two NCAA titles.

    In an interview with the New York Post in 1985 and in several public speaking engagements, legendary coach John Wooden, when asked to describe his ideal player, said “I would have the player be a good student, polite, courteous, a good team player, a good defensive player and rebounder, a good inside player and outside shooter. Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that?”

    If that isn’t HOF material then there isn’t any.

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