One of the smoothest, steadiest and most productive forwards to ever play in the NBA (he possessed a deadly accurate jump shot from the corner that Hall of Fame Laker announcer Chick Hearn dubbed the “20 foot layup”) Jamaal “Smooth as Silk” Wilkes won championships at the scholastic, collegiate and professional levels.
Wilkes was an All-America Prep player at Santa Barbara High School (his teammate Don Ford also played in the NBA with the Lakers) in Santa Barbara, California. As a two-time All-American at UCLA, Wilkes teamed with Bill Walton to bring UCLA the 1972 and 1973 NCAA titles, and a third place finish in 1974. As a Bruin, Wilkes was part of UCLA teams that won a record 88 consecutive games. In three years at UCLA, Wilkes averaged 15.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg and shot 51.4 percent from the field. He was a two-time All-Pacific-8 selection (1973–1974), a member of the 1972 NCAA All-Tournament Team, and a three-time first-team Academic All-American (1972–1974). Prior to joining the varsity team, Wilkes (20.0 ppg), along with Greg Lee (17.9 ppg) and Bill Walton (18.1, 68.6 per cent), was a member of the 20–0 UCLA Frosh team.
In March 2007, he was inducted into the Pac-10 Men’s Basketball Hall of Honor. In an interview with the New York Post in 1985 and in several public speaking engagements, legendary coach Wooden stated, when asked 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. Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that.”
In 12 professional seasons with the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers, Wilkes was a member of four NBA championship teams – one with Golden State in 1975, the season he was named Rookie of the Year – and three with the Showtime Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985), though an injury prevented him from playing in the 1985 NBA finals against the Boston Celtics, yet the Lakers’ won the series in six games over the Celtics, 4–2. One of the most memorable games of his career was the series clinching Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers; Wilkes had 37 points and 10 rebounds, but was overshadowed by rookie teammate Magic Johnson, who started at center in place of an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and finishing with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. “Jamaal Wilkes had an unbelievable game,” said Johnson in 2011. “Everybody talked about my 42 [points], but it was also his [37-point effort].
For his career, Wilkes registered 14,664 points (17.7 ppg) and 5,117 rebounds (6.2 rpg), averaging 16.1 ppg in 113 postseason games. He played in the 1976, 1981, and 1983 All-Star Games and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team twice. The Sporting News named Wilkes to its NBA All-Pro Second Team three years. On April 2, 2012, Wilkes was announced as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction class of 2012. He formally entered the Hall on September 7. On December 28, 2012, the Lakers retired Wilkes’ jersey, number 52, and on January 17, 2013, UCLA retired his collegiate jersey, also number 52.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes…Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes.
Ventura (Ventura, California)
Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, California)
1974 / Round: 1 / Pick: 11th overall
Selected by the Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
Career highlights and awards
4× NBA champion (1975, 1980, 1982, 1985)
3× NBA All-Star (1976, 1981, 1983)
2× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1976–1977)
NBA Rookie of the Year (1975)
NBA All-Rookie First Team (1975)
No. 52 retired by Los Angeles Lakers
2× NCAA champion (1972–1973)
2× Consensus first team All-American (1973–1974)
No. 52 retired by UCLA
14,644 (17.7 ppg)
5,117 (6.2 rpg)
2,050 (2.5 apg)
Basketball Hall of Fame as player