It’s been 20 years since he became eligible, but he’s finally made it. Today, Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes was named to the 2012 Basketball Hall of Fame class. Wilkes’ averages of nearly 18 points, a shade over 6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game don’t necessarily scream hall of famer, but his impact on winning teams both at the college and pro-level certainly do.
And really, winning is what should define his legacy. Wilkes was part of
3 4 NBA championship teams, including during his rookie year with the upstart Golden State Warriors and then collecting two three more with the Lakers in 1980, 1982, and 1985 (though that season he was injured and missed the playoffs). He also won two NCAA championships as part of back to back undefeated Bruins teams coached by John Wooden.
He was an offensive wizard that ran like a gazelle in the open court and hit high release jumpers when the game slowed down. He was a smart cutter and always seemed to be able to find the creases in the defense where he could hurt them with a part of his refined offensive arsenal. He could make the game look easy with a style so smooth they called him Silk.
Most of all though, he seemed to play well in big games and help lead his team to the mountain top on multiple occasions. His best game as a pro will always be remembered as the one that earned Magic Johnson the MVP, but the night that Wilkes had is one of the greatest performances that rarely gets talked about. In the championship clinching game with Kareem back in Los Angeles getting treatment on a sprained ankle, Wilkes put up 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help dispatch the 76ers. His full offensive game was on display that night, canning jumpers, running the floor for easy baskets, and finishing around the rim with ease.
So, congrats to Silk. He certainly earned this honor. And now with this induction, the hope is that the Lakers will raise his #52 to the rafters to join the other HOFer’s that have worn the forum blue and gold. He’s certainly earned that honor too.
Update: As commenter chownoir pointed out, Silk was also a very good defender and was named to the All-Defensive (2nd) Team in the ’76 and ’77 seasons. His length and quickness were assets on the defensive end and he could cover both forward spots well. I should also point out that Wilkes was a three time all-star and was also named rookie of the year.