This article was modified at 5:25 p.m. Dec. 30, 2012 to reflect the fact that the jersey was retired Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.
The No. 52 jersey worn by Ventura native Jamaal Wilkes was retired by the Los Angeles Lakers at a halftime ceremony during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center, eight months after his election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"My head is swimming right now,'' Wilkes said after the retired jersey
was unveiled Friday on the Staples Center's wall, next to that of Earvin "Magic''
"I'd like to thank Dr. Buss, the Buss family and the entire Laker
"Growing up in Ventura I used to listen to Chick Hearn, `Old Golden
Throat,' talk about Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain,'' Wilkes
said, then pausing and drawing cheers and applause from the capacity crowd of
18,997, which included Baylor, West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
"I don't know what to say,'' Wilkes said, pausing again, "but thank
you, thank you very much, I love you. Thank you. Thank you so much.''
Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak, a teammate of Wilkes from 1981-85,
used a 1985 quote from Wilkes' coach at UCLA, the late John Wooden, about
describing the ideal player, to introduce Wilkes.
"I would have a player to be a good student, polite, courteous, a good
team player, a good defensive player, a good rebounder, and a good inside
player and a good outside shooter,'' Kupchak said.
"Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that.''
Wilkes signed with the Lakers as a free agent in 1977 after spending the
first three seasons of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors.
He was named as the NBA's Rookie of the Year for the 1974-75 season when he helped the Warriors to their only championship on the West Coast.
The 6-foot-6-inch forward played for the Lakers from 1977-85 and was
best known for his unorthodox but smooth corner jump shot the team's late
legendary announcer Chick Hearn referred to as the "20-foot layup,'' and then-coach Paul Westhead described as "snow falling off a bamboo leaf.''
"Jamaal was one of my favorite players,'' former NBA forward Kiki
Vandeweghe told City News Service in an interview this week.
"It looked like he was effortless out on the court, and yet I just hated playing against him as much as I liked him personally. He was just very difficult to play against.
"He was extremely fast; very, very quick, great hands, could stick to
you like glue. On offense he was very tricky, could shoot much better than you
thought and was very hard to guard.''
When Wilkes was elected to the Hall of Fame in April, Lakers owner Jerry
Buss said, "Anyone who truly knows and loves the game of basketball surely
recognizes what a special and gifted player Jamaal Wilkes was.
"A rare combination of selflessness and grace, Jamaal made the game
look effortless,'' Buss said.
"It's easy to forget that Jamaal averaged 20-plus points during our
1980 and 1982 championship seasons. Many also don't recall he scored 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the decisive Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals.
"He was overlooked because he put the team first, the individual second
and let others shine.''
Wilkes' jersey was the eighth retired by the Lakers, following those
worn by Baylor, Chamberlain, West, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Worthy and Goodrich, all Hall of Fame members.
Wilkes' No. 52 was worn by two players after he was waived by the Lakers
in 1985 -- center Mike Smrek, who played with the team from 1986-88, and
forward Samaki Walker, a Laker from 2001-2003.
The 59-year-old Wilkes now operates the Westchester-based wealth
management firm Jamaal Wilkes Financial Advisors, which specializes in
investment-grade gold and silver, rare U.S. coins and precious metals.