It was Wilkes’ blessing and bane that he played alongside, and was often overshadowed, by some of the game’s greatest players. For instance, very few people remember that Wilkes scored 37 points in the clinching game of the 1980 Finals for the Lakers; what they remember is Magic Johnson scoring 42 points while playing all five positions.
Wilkes was a member of the great UCLA teams that won 88 consecutive games and two national championships, but Bill Walton got most of the attention.
During the 1974-75 season with the Golden State Warriors, Wilkes averaged 14 points and eight rebounds and was named rookie of the year, winning his first NBA championship playing with yet another great, Rick Barry.
It was with the Lakers that Wilkes had his greatest success, winning three NBA titles while displaying the cool consistency that earned him the nickname "Silk." An outstanding shooter, Wilkes was so consistent from the outside that Chick Hearn dubbed his jump shot the “20-foot layup."
Wilkes played 12 professional seasons, averaging 18 points during the regular season and 16 during 113 playoff games. Given his body of work -- two national championships, four NBA titles, rookie of the year, three All-Star game appearances, twice named to the all-defensive team -- there are many who feel that Wilkes is the best player not in the Hall of Fame.
Still, Wilkes was the recipient of probably the greatest honor any player could receive when John Wooden, 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?"
Feb. 12, 2011