Andy’s guest this week on Legends Of Sport is a true California sports icon, Naismith Hall Of Famer and Showtime Lakers legend, Jamaal Wilkes! Hear Jamaal reflect on his Showtime Lakers days, playing high school and weekend basketball in Ventura, California, joining the Lakers as a free agent, the story behind his nickname “Silk,” the recruiting process that led him to UCLA, learning from Coach John Wooden and his “pyramid of success,” getting drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 1975 and winning Rookie of the Year AND the NBA Championship in the same year, his role in the 1975 movie “Cornbread, Earl, and Me” which addressed social justice and also starred a young Laurence Fishburne in his film debut and much more!
Other topics discussed in this episode:
4:52 Showtime Lakers’ “indescribable” dynamic with Dr. Jerry Buss, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the glitz and glamour of the Great Western Forum, and the new offense developed by Jack McKinney
7:25 How Jamaal’s smoothness, in basketball and in life, earned him the nickname “Silk” and helped him fit in on all of his teams, from high school through the pros
“(In junior high) I realized the importance of winning, and that if I could make a difference on a team to help them win, then I could be a key player…My first high school coach…made my intro to the game fun and relaxed…He really instructed me in technical fundamentals, making sure I moved my feet right and so forth and so on. And then, transferring to Santa Barbara High, my coach was very different but we had a very successful year. Then going to UCLA for Coach Wooden, I realized that if you can only shoot, if your shot’s not going in, you won’t be in the game. So I had to do multiple things to justify being out on the floor and Coach Wooden really kind of underscored that. And so I prided myself on learning to play with the ball, I played more with the ball at Golden State, and of course, with the Lakers I played off the ball. And so I had to be adaptable, and I studied how I could impact things. And, it just helped me to fit in different systems with different players, different personalities, different egos.”
10:53 Jamaal’s recruitment by UCLA coaches Denny Crum and John Wooden, the invaluable character lessons he learned from the Wizard of Westwood, and being called the “ideal player” by Coach Wooden
19:09 Jamaal reflects on his rookie season with the Warriors, his Hall of Fame teammate Rick Barry and the team’s “guiding light”, head coach Alvin Attles
23:04 They story behind Jamaal’s unorthodox basketball shot (which Lakers Hall of Fame broadcaster Chick Hearn called the “20-foot layup”) and how Jamaal convinced Coach Wooden not to adjust his shooting mechanics
“When I was 11-12 years old, I was clearly one of the better, if not the best, young players in the area… I started playing with older guys – 18, 20, 21 (year old) military guys on weekends. And so I was still kind of doing the Sidewinder… Well, I was still on the nine-foot hoop, and these guys would not play on a nine-foot hoop. So I played on a 10-foot hoop and I really couldn’t shoot it. And so, for the first six months, they just blocked my shot all the time. They just pushed me around, they were trying to get me to leave. And I kept coming back and coming back. I don’t know when or where or how, but I just developed that so I could, you know, when they went up, and they’d start coming down, I could shoot over them. I got pretty proficient at that. So when I was in high school, I actually shot the ball off the side of my hand…. None of my high school coaches ever said anything, it wasn’t until I got to UCLA, the first week of practice with Coach Wooden that he calls me over (in practice).”
27:36 How Jamaal’s Game 6 performance in the 1980 NBA Finals helped the Lakers clinch the NBA title
29:35 Jamaal discusses acting in “Cornbread, Earl, and Me,” a groundbreaking film on police brutality and social issues, while a student athlete at UCLA
Hear years of basketball history made on and off the court in this episode of Legends Of Sport with three-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA champion — Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes!