Jamaal Wilkes‘ shooting form was hideous, but the result of his jump shot was usually picture perfect.
Wilkes won four NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors, as well as two NCAA titles at UCLA, but for a player who just plain won a whole heck of a lot, it took some time for Wilkes to receive the recognition he deserves. He will finally be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, more than 27 years after he played his final game in the NBA.
The hall of fame induction may have been slow in coming because Wilkes never played with much flash, despite being a part of some truly explosive teams. He was a steady, reliable player whose nickname, “Silk,” fit him perfectly.
Over the course of his 12-year pro career, Wilkes was a regular 20-point scorer who almost never missed a game, appearing in at least 80 games seven times in his first nine NBA seasons. He shot better than 50 percent from the field six times, with Lakers announcer Chick Hearn referring to Wilkes’ awkward-looking coiled jumper as “The 20-Foot Layup.” Asked to describe the perfect basketball player, famed UCLA coach John Wooden started naming traits until he simply said one name: Jamaal Wilkes.
In life, Wilkes apparently is unassuming as he was on the court. Many of his biggest fans do not even know his legal name is Jamaal Abdul-Lateef, since Wilkes continued to go by his birth name publicly after he converted to Islam in 1975. He has been a motivational speaker and financial advisor, as well as a successful author, since his retirement from the NBA in 1985.
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