Lakers retire jersey of former star Jamaal Wilkes, O’Neal is next


jamaal-wilkes-jersey-retiredJamaal Wilkes’ jersey was retired by the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, putting the smooth forward known as “Silk” in company with the franchise’s Hall of Fame stars.

Wilkes was enshrined in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame this year, and the Lakers hung his No. 52 on the wall at Staples Center during halftime of their game against Portland.

Wilkes was visibly touched by the honor, choking up while thanking his fellow Lakers greats. Jerry West, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elgin Baylor all showed up to support their fellow Lakers honoree.

Wilkes is a California native who starred at UCLA before winning his first NBA championship as a rookie at Golden State. He was a key supporting player on three Lakers title-winning teams of the 1980s.

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.

“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.

Lakers vs Spurs NBA Playoffs 1983Wilkes 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.”

Wilkes played in 828 NBA games (245 started), averaging 17.7 poits, 6.2 rebounds and 32.9 minutes per game.

In August 2012 it has been reported that another Lakers’ star, will have his jersey retired. Former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal, who won three NBA championships here from 2000 to 2002, will have his No. 34 jersey retired April 2 at Staples Center in a halftime ceremony when the Lakers host the Dallas Mavericks.

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