Wilkes Stuns Clippers by Announcing His Retirement

Times Staff Writer

Jamaal Wilkes, who played major roles on National Basketball Assn. championship teams at Golden State and with the Lakers in a distinguished 12-year career, had become little more than a bit player this season for the struggling Clippers, one of the league's most undistinguished franchises.

So, on Tuesday morning, Wilkes, 32, announced his retirement, saying in effect that he had too many good memories in his career to let it continue in such a manner.

Wilkes declined all interview requests Tuesday but agreed to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Sports Arena. He also issued a statement through the Clippers, briefly explaining the reasons for his sudden retirement.

"There were several factors involved . . . but the main reason was that I feel I was not making a significant contribution (to the Clippers)," Wilkes said in the statement. "At the same time, other (business) interests became more and more attractive.

"At this point in my life, I felt if I were to start over in a career, I'd rather it be a second career. Among the ventures I plan to get involved in would be to obtain my MBA degree in business as well as continuing the effort in my new (import) business."

News of Wilkes' retirement shocked Clipper Coach Don Chaney, who said he recently had heard talk that Wilkes might retire after the season.

"I'm sure it bothered Jamaal not playing much for the Clippers," Chaney said. "He's a proud guy. Like all great players, he wanted to retire gracefully. Fans should remember him as a great player, not a guy playing a few minutes off the bench. I'm sure he was uncomfortable that Rory White was playing ahead of him."

Carl Scheer, the Clippers' general manager, received the phone call from Wilkes Tuesday morning and called the manner in which Wilkes made the announcement "the strangest thing I've ever, ever heard of."

Said Scheer: "I'm sitting in my Sports Arena office all alone and the phone rings. A guy asks for (trainer) Mike Shimensky in the training room. I said Mike wasn't there. At that point, he says, 'Carl, is that you? This is Jamaal. I'm not going to play in Portland (tonight). I'm going to retire.'

"I was shocked. I told Jamaal to call Don (Chaney) and we would set something up. I never heard from him again. I wanted to be able to have him retire with the dignity and respect he deserves."

Wilkes, who had never played on a losing team until this season, leaves with four NBA championship rings--1975 with Golden State and 1980, '82 and '84 with the Lakers--and a career scoring average of 17.6 points. He ranks 43rd on the all-time NBA scoring list.

Financially, Wilkes can afford to retire. He still will be paid full salary from the six-year, $5.3-million contract he signed with the Lakers in 1982.

Wilkes earns a guaranteed $860,000 this season, $800,000 in 1986-87 and $747,000 in 1987-88. About half of each season's salary is deferred. Wilkes will receive the deferred payments between 1990 and 1997.

Even though the Lakers waived Wilkes Aug. 28 and the Clippers signed him Sept. 27 for the NBA minimum of $70,000, the Lakers still have to pay the rest of Wilkes' lucrative contract.

The Clippers, meanwhile, can use $70,000 to sign another player. But they will go with 11 players tonight in Portland.

"Jamaal doesn't need the money," Chaney said. "He was playing with us because he loves the game of basketball and he wanted to show he could still play. I want to remember him as one of the NBA's best players."

In his first 10 NBA seasons, Wilkes had been one of the NBA's best small forwards, accurate with an unorthodox outside shot and able to slip by taller and bigger opponents inside.

Wilkes may be most remembered for his 36-point performance in Game 6 of the NBA championship series in 1980, helping the Lakers eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers. Typically for the unassuming Wilkes, though, that performance was overshadowed by rookie Magic Johnson, who scored 42 points that night playing center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar .

But Wilkes, nicknamed Silk for his smooth playing style, had seen his career become as rough as wool in the last year and a half. He lost his starting spot on the Lakers to James Worthy early last season and then missed the final 40 games and the playoffs after tearing ligaments in his left knee.

After rehabilitating his knee last summer, Wilkes was waived by the Lakers, but he was picked up by the Clippers, who wanted Wilkes' scoring off the bench and also welcomed the fact that he was a popular local player.

Wilkes said he felt totally healthy during training camp and showed glimpses of his earlier form in the early season. But he sprained his ankle Nov. 12 at Golden State and missed the next 13 games.

When Wilkes returned to action about two weeks ago, Chaney decided to stay with White as his third forward. Wilkes did not play in two games last week and, in what turned out to be his final professional game, he scored two points in eight minutes last Saturday at Sacramento.

Wilkes, who averaged 5.7 points while playing 15 minutes a game this season, told his wife, Valerie, that he had been considering retiring for several weeks. Wilkes had expressed frustration recently when asked by writers how he felt about not playing even though he was healthy.

"I played with Jamaal on the Lakers a year, and he was a great team player, very unselfish," Chaney said. "But I'm sure he wanted to play like anyone else."

Without question, Wilkes was one of the most popular and talented players ever to come out of Southern California. He came to UCLA out of Santa Barbara High School in 1970 as Keith Wilkes and teamed with Bill Walton to help lead the Bruins to two NCAA championships. He changed his name from Keith to Jamaal, because of his Islamic religious beliefs, shortly after turning professional.

Ever since his UCLA days, Wilkes has been a favorite of fans, coaches and teammates.

Former UCLA Coach John Wooden gave Wilkes a supreme compliment when asked once to describe his ideal player.

"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," Wooden said. "Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that." JAMAAL WILKES' UCLA CAREER

Season G FGA FGM Pct. FTA FTM Pct. Reb. Pts. Avg. 1970-71 20 267 166 .622 95 68 .716 242 400 20.0 1971-72 30 322 171 .531 92 64 .696 245 406 13.5 1972-73 30 381 200 .525 66 43 .652 220 443 14.8 1973-74 30 426 209 .491 94 82 .872 198 500 16.7 Totals 90 1129 580 .514 252 189 .750 663 1349 15.0

Note: Totals include varsity seasons only

JAMAAL WILKES' NBA CAREER Regular Season

Season Team G Min. FGA FGM Pct. FTA FTM 1974-75 Golden State 82 2,515 1,135 502 .442 218 160 1975-76 Golden State 82 2,716 1,334 617 .463 294 227 1976-77 Golden State 76 2,579 1,147 548 .478 310 247 1977-78 L.A. Lakers 51 1,490 630 277 .440 148 106 1978-79 L.A. Lakers 82 2,915 1,242 626 .504 362 272 1979-80 L.A. Lakers 82 3,111 1,358 726 .535 234 189 1980-81 L.A. Lakers 81 3,028 1,495 786 .526 335 254 1981-82 L.A. Lakers 82 2,906 1,417 744 .525 336 246 1982-83 L.A. Lakers 80 2,552 1,290 684 .530 268 203 1983-84 L.A. Lakers 75 2,507 1,055 542 .514 280 208 1984-85 L.A. Lakers 42 761 303 148 .488 66 51 1984-85 L.A. Clippers 13 195 65 26 .400 27 22 Totals 828 27,275 12,471 6,226 .500 2,878 2,212

Season Pct. Reb. Ast. PF Pts. Avg. 1974-75 .734 671 183 222 1,164 14.2 1975-76 .772 720 167 222 1,461 17.8 1976-77 .797 578 211 222 1,343 17.7 1977-78 .716 380 182 162 660 12.9 1978-79 .751 609 227 275 1,524 18.6 1979-80 .808 525 250 220 1,644 20.0 1980-81 .758 435 235 223 1,827 22.6 1981-82 .732 393 143 240 1,734 21.1 1982-83 .757 343 182 221 1,571 19.6 1983-84 .743 340 214 205 1,294 17.3 1984-85 .773 94 41 65 347 8.3 1984-85 .815 29 15 19 75 5.7 Totals .782 5,117 2,050 2,296 14,644 17.7

Playoffs

Season Team G Min. FGA FGM Pct. FTA FTM 1974-75 Golden State 17 503 249 111 .446 47 33 1975-76 Golden State 13 450 200 86 .430 45 35 1976-77 Golden State 10 346 154 66 .429 28 23 1977-78 L.A. Lakers 3 108 32 15 .469 11 6 1978-79 L.A. Lakers 8 307 128 61 .477 37 25 1979-80 L.A. Lakers 16 652 294 140 .476 54 44 1980-81 L.A. Lakers 3 113 48 21 .438 18 12 1981-82 L.A. Lakers 14 535 241 121 .502 49 38 1982-83 L.A. Lakers 15 589 273 136 .498 44 27 1983-84 L.A. Lakers 14 196 70 28 .400 11 7 Totals 113 3,799 1,689 785 .465 344 250

Season Pct. Reb. Ast. PF Pts. Avg. 1974-75 .702 119 28 53 255 15.0 1975-76 .778 103 29 33 207 15.9 1976-77 .821 80 16 23 155 15.5 1977-78 .545 26 8 14 36 12.0 1978-79 .676 68 16 21 147 18.4 1979-80 .815 128 48 51 324 20.3 1980-81 .667 8 4 10 54 18.0 1981-82 .776 70 37 43 280 20.0 1982-83 .614 90 51 51 299 19.9 1983-84 .636 26 9 27 63 4.5 Totals .727 718 246 326 1,820 16.1

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