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Meet Jamaal Wilkes, The Lakers Legend and a Standout in California Basketball History

This is the story of Jamaal Wilkes, an esteemed Lakers legend and a standout figure in the history of California basketball.

Jamaal Wilkes’ upbringing took place in Ventura, CA, where he commenced his basketball journey at Ventura High School before moving to Santa Barbara during his senior year.

At Santa Barbara, he partnered with future Lakers colleague Don Ford and clinched the title of the 1970 CIF Class 4A Player of the Year.

Meet Jamaal Wilkes, The Lakers Legend and a Standout in California Basketball History
Jamaal Wilkes/@Lakers,X

His performance caught the eye of the renowned UCLA head coach, John Wooden. This paved the way for Jamaal to secure two NCAA Championships while playing alongside eventual Hall of Famer, Bill Walton.

Their impressive 88-game winning streak spanning 1971 to 1974 remains unmatched in NCAA men’s basketball history.

Reflecting on the qualities of his ideal player, Coach Wooden once succinctly expressed, “Why not just choose Jamaal Wilkes and let it stand?” This highlights the exceptional skillset and attributes Wilkes possessed, making him an outstanding choice.

Jamaal Wilkes, chosen 11th overall by the Golden State Warriors in 1974, quickly left his mark, becoming their second-highest scorer in his rookie season, contributing to their 1975 NBA championship win, and earning the Rookie of the Year accolade.

Subsequently, Wilkes joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1977 via free agency. Recognized for his smooth and versatile scoring, he possessed a unique but reliable jumper often referred to by Chick Hearn as a “20-foot layup.”

With Magic Johnson’s arrival in 1979, the Lakers entered the championship race. Wilkes emerged as the second-highest scorer and primary wing defender in the starting lineup. Their stellar performance yielded 60 wins and the #1 seed in the Western Conference.

While Magic Johnson’s Game 6 performance in the Finals is legendary, Jamaal Wilkes also played an instrumental role. He scored 37 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and significantly contributed to the Lakers securing their first NBA championship during the era of the 3-point line.

Wilkes, who spent his entire basketball journey in California, from high school to the pros, went on to capture three NBA championships with the Lakers and a total of four championships.

His remarkable achievements include:

– Hall of Famer

– Four-time NBA Champion

– Three-time All-Star

– Two-time All-Defense (2nd Team)

– 1975 Rookie of the Year

– Two-time NCAA Champion

– Two-time All-American (1st Team)

In honor of his exceptional career, the Lakers retired his number in 2012.

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