Sunday, April 8, 2012
SMOOTH AS WILKES
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Jaamal 'Silk' Wilkes was so smooth sometimes his great, legendary play went unnoticed in the golden eighties years of his purple Laker reign. I guess that's what happens when you play in front of a Hollywood celebrity crowd in the Forum of Los Angeles playing 'Showtime' basketball with the greatest scorer of all time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the greatest passer of all time...a guy we all know simply as Magic.
The tricks of Silkes trade where celebrated, but he's still remained an unsung and underrated player. A massive black and white portrait of him hangs in Tom Cruise's characters office in nighties hit rom-com 'Jerry Maguire', yet today his Wikipedia page isn't complete with a photo. Legendary Lakers announcer Chick Hearn coined the 'Silk' nickname along with his 'Slam Dunk' and refrigerator cool phrases, yet some Lakers fans mind will run cold when Wilkes name is mentioned. This lack of knowledge needs to change. The light is on, the jello is cooling...but is anyone home.
Things really look to open up and change now however. The corridors of the Naismith Hall Of Fame look to get even smoother this year as the squeaks of Silkes Wilkes sneaks look to step in and join last years inductee Tex Winter and a whole host of other Lakers alumni in the prestigious class of basketball greats. You know John Wooden will be so proud but not surprised. You'd think there would be no better honour, but in the very same "whirlwind" (as Jaamal put it) week the Lakers organisation announced they'll be raising Jaamal Smooth's number 52 jersey to join Wilt, Jerry, Elgin, Gail, Kareem's 33, Magic's 32 and James Worthy's 42 in the rafters. This jersey retirement announcement coming off the heels of the Hall, couldn't be any better for Wilkes...unless they made his honoured jersey out of woven silk.
Weaving between defenders like he switched between the 2 and 3 spots. Wilkes was that smooth to his basketball touch and that butter jumper was so money it afforded the Hearn nickname and the dubbing of being a '20 foot lay up' (it was that 'good', word to Marv Albert). From a big body and long arms, this Shooting Guard/Small Forward was a wingspan nightmare on defence. While just like Byron Scott and A.C. Green his 'Oop' dunks that finished off Magic Johnson's 'Alleys' really put the 'Show' in 'Showtime'. It was wow time when Jaamal amazed everyone from the players to the fans with his on court skill set. His versatile, tall, do it all presence really opened up the Forum floor for Pat Riley's slick smooth Lakers. Laker nation you thinking Lamar Odom? Plus all the disappointment that came with his departure from LAX, Los Angeles? Well then just think what a shame it was that Wilkes has been under appreciated and somewhat disregarded...that is at least until now.
Jaamal won't have to reside in the unsung ranks of 1980's Lake Show greats that where just as much a part of the legendary legacy like Norm Nixon and Bob McAdoo for long. This pillar really helped the Forum become a coliseum of gladiatorial basketball. Now his place in the hall and the rafters is guaranteed by the Los Angeles Lakers and National Basketball Association powers that be...and will. The Berkley born California bred, UCLA grad, really epitomised L.A. and the city of dreams (3 times an All-Star, 6 times a champion (2 in the NCAA)) and its about time the town of stars and angles and the basketball world woke up and saw the light shining on this sleeper star that deserved more illumination. This ABA team president really is a Los Angeles Star. This smooth operator is finally going to be heard like Sade. The polite, courteous, motivational speaker will finally have someone taking to the microphone for him. At almost 60 years of age the former Golden State Warriors 'Rookie of the Year's' steady play has finally produced the individual rewards he finally deserves. Its all silky smooth now.