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Jamaal Wilkes reflects on Hall of Fame induction, jersey retirement

April 06, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Former Laker Jamaal Wilkes says he is "pinching myself" over news of his Hall of Fame induction and jersey retirement.
Former Laker Jamaal Wilkes says he is "pinching myself" over… (Los Angeles Times )

The week has been, former Laker Jamaal Wilkes said, a "whirlwind."

On Monday, the NBA announced his induction Sept. 8 into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Then came the Lakers' decision to retire his No. 52 jersey next season.

Wilkes has had plenty of chances to talk about his recent honors with friends and fans. He made a trip to the NCAA Final Four in New Orleans and appeared at Staples Center Wednesday for the Lakers-Clippers game. He attended an event at a Manhattan Beach hotel commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Lakers' 1972 championship team.

His busy schedule has left Wilkes little time to fully process the news. "I haven't started doing that yet," he told The Times.

His jersey is scheduled to join those of Wilt Chamberlain (No. 13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Earvin "Magic" Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), James Worthy (42) and Jerry West (44) in the Staples Center rafters. All seven of those players are also members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I'm truly flattered and honored to have my jersey up there with those guys," Wilkes said. "I'm pinching myself."

In Wilkes' eight-year stint with the Lakers (1977-85), they won three NBA titles (1980, 1982, 1985). He remains 10th in career points (10,601) and ninth in steals (706) among Lakers. And in what Wilkes said "would certainly be one of the highlights" of his 11-year NBA career, he posted 37 points and 10 rebounds in the Lakers' title-clinching Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Wilkes' consistency earned him the nickname "Silk." Chick Hearn described his reliable outside shot as the "20-foot layup." Yet Wilkes' contributions to the "Showtime" teams were often overshadowed by Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar. For example, Wilkes' Game 6 effort often stands behind the memory of Johnson, starting at center in place of an injured Abdul-Jabbar, posting 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

"I always put emphasis on winning and team play," said Wilkes, who also won an NBA title in 1975 with the Golden State Warriors. "With Golden State, I handled the ball more. With the Lakers and the great point guards, I learned to play without the ball. As a player, I always tried to put the best interest of the team first, and hopefully I could excel within that."

He attributed that mindset to John Wooden's teachings, including the famed "Pyramid of Success" -- maintaining an even keel through success and failures and keeping a humble demeanor.

"I'm really feeling Coach John Wooden," said Wilkes, who won two NCAA titles with UCLA. "If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here."

RELATED:

Jamaal Wilkes: All Things Lakers

Lakers to retire Jamaal Wilkes' jersey next season

Jamaal Wilkes to be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com. Follow the Lakers blog on Twitter and Facebook.

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