The Lakers retired the jersey of Jamaal Wilkes at halftime Friday night as the Lakers hosted the Portland Trail Blazers.
With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West standing courtside, Wilkes looked up to the rafters to see his number 52 jersey revealed next to Magic Johnson’s number 32.
Wilkes was a vital part of the first wave of Showtime Lakers, a 6'6" forward/guard with a smooth jumper.
Legendary broadcaster Chick Hearn called Wilkes’ jump shot a “20-foot layup,” fitting to a player whose nickname were “Smooth as Silk” or more simply “Silk.”
“I’m very emotional right now,” said Wilkes before the game. “I’m just having fun tonight. I’m just enjoying it and I think months later it will hit me, the true significance of it all.
Wilkes, 59 years old, was a 2012 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Now his jersey, No. 52, hangs up high at Staples Center alongside Jerry West (44), Wilt Chamberlain (13), Magic Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25) and James Worthy (42).
“I’m glad it happened while I’m still alive,” laughed Wilkes.
Wilkes was a four-time NBA champion, winning his first in 1977 with the Golden State Warriors. He played with the Lakers from 1977-85, winning rings in 1980, 1982 and 1985.
“I prided myself on winning. I learned at a very young age you can debate who the best player was or wasn’t, but you can’t debate who won or lost,” said Wilkes. “That’s where my priorities went and I played with some pretty good players along the way and I like to think that they made me better, and I made them better, because I was able to adapt to different situations and I was a good influence in the locker room.”
He was also a three-time All-Star, NBA Rookie of the year (1975) and a two-time NCAA champion at UCLA.
“Playing for the Lakers was just great. From top to bottom they had the leadership, the organization, from Dr. Buss to Bill Sharman, Jerry West, Pat Riley and then the players,” said Wilkes. “We had a real sense of pride in our team’s success. Of course we had issues going on all the time, undercurrents, but we never let it get in the way of our objective, which was to be the best in the NBA and to represent the city of LA the best that we could.”
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