Another Los Angeles Lakers great is now officially a Hall of Famer, with the induction of Jamaal Wilkes on Friday evening in Springfield, Mass. As ESPNLA's Arash Markazi notes, it's an honor he believed one day would come, but wasn't quite sure if he'd live to see it.
He did, and if you missed his speech, click here, it's worth a listen. (His induction video is also three minutes well spent.) If, like me, you didn't get a chance to see Wilkes play in person and want to know what you missed, here's a great video of arguably his greatest game, a 37-point, 10-rebound performance in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against Philadelphia.
His effort was then and now overshadowed by one of the most iconic performances in NBA history: 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and a block from rookie point guard Magic Johnson, as the Lakers clinched a title with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the sidelines. But in some ways it's fitting so many forget what Wilkes did that day.
As ESPN's J.A. Adande writes, it's a reflection of how Wilkes carried himself on the court:
"In the NBA, when everyone else tapped their feet to a 1-2-3, 1-2-3 beat, Wilkes would go 1 ... 2. He found a way to slip between the beats, and it proved to be completely disruptive, just as effective as the ultimate beat shifter, the crossover dribble. The crossover brings the rhythm to a complete stop. It makes fans go, "Ooooooh!" Wilkes simply made fans scratch their heads and say, "How did that happen?"
At least once a game, Wilkes would be open right in front of the basket, Magic would zip a pass to him and Wilkes had a layup. The layups were another thing that set Wilkes apart. Amid the Showtime Lakers' high-flying finishers such as Michael Cooper and James Worthy, you could count on Wilkes simply depositing the ball in the hoop.
That's another reason Wilkes slipped through NBA memories. The passes from Magic were usually more dazzling than the shots by Wilkes. Wilkes' play didn't do anything to draw attention to himself. He was just ... there. You noticed him only after he'd accomplished his goal, never before. He didn't taunt his opponents. He pointed fingers at teammates only to acknowledge a pass, never to accuse them."
The Lakers will retire Wilkes' 52 on Dec. 28 vs. Portland.