Los Angeles Lakers: Bill Walton

Jamaal Wilkes finally gets his due

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
9:05
AM PT
Markazi By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Jamaal WilkesNBA Photos/NBAE/Getty ImagesJamaal Wilkes, who grew up in Santa Barbara, never played for a team outside his home state of California.

Jamaal Wilkes always knew this day would come. He never lost faith he would one day be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He just wasn't so sure if he would actually be around to see it.

"I was hopeful that it would come while I was still alive," Wilkes said Thursday night from Springfield, Mass., where he will be inducted Friday. "I wanted to enjoy it."

Wilkes retired from the NBA in 1985 and only now is receiving accolades for a 12-year professional career and a college career so impressive that UCLA Bruins coach John Wooden once singled him out as his ideal player.

On Dec. 28, the Los Angeles Lakers will retire Wilkes' No. 52 jersey, 27 years after he officially retired from the NBA. On Jan. 17, UCLA will retire Wilkes' No. 52 jersey, nearly 40 years after he helped the Bruins win back-to-back national championships.

"I knew once I got into the Hall of Fame my jersey would be retired. Although I knew that intellectually, emotionally the fact that the Lakers are going to retire my jersey along with all those great players I watched and played with, I still haven't grasped that yet. I haven't grasped UCLA yet, either."

One of the reasons it took the Hall of Fame nearly three decades to grasp the greatness of Wilkes' career is because he was often overshadowed by some of the great players he will be joining in Springfield and in the rafters of Staples Center and Pauley Pavilion.

The greatest games of Wilkes' career came on the biggest stages, usually resulting in a championship, but also coinciding with a bigger name having a legendary game that rendered his performance a footnote in history.

Wilkes' signature performance came during Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, when he had 37 points and 10 rebounds to help lead the Lakers to a championship over the Philadelphia 76ers.

That game was, of course, also one of the greatest games of Magic Johnson's career, as he started at center in place of the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, played all five positions, and finished with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

"That was probably the best game I've ever played, certainly in my top three," Wilkes said. "I think they were already expecting a Game 7 and overlooking us in Game 6. Without Kareem, we wanted to play faster, but we all had to rebound and we all had to chip in and get the ball off the glass. We knew it was going to be an up-tempo game. It was the only game I ever played in where I attempted 30 shots."

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Luke Walton remembers Maurice Lucas

November, 1, 2010
11/01/10
6:24
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Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Sunday, the NBA lost a beloved and revered member of its fraternity with the death of Maurice Lucas. The power forward, a critical part of the Portland Trail Blazers' 1977 championship team, was 58 when he died after a long battle with bladder cancer. One of Lucas' title-winning teammates was Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who thought so highly of "The Enforcer" he named one of his children in his honor.

You know that child as Luke Walton.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Walton and Lucas forged a close friendship on the way to winning a title.


After Monday's practice in El Segundo, I caught up with Luke to get some thoughts about his namesake. He offered some touching memories and details about growing up around a man he knew as a gentle giant.

Andy Kamenetzky: How well did you know Maurice Lucas growing up?

Luke Walton: We knew him pretty well. He used to spend, not a lot, but a good amount of time down in San Diego. He'd come down with his family. Over the last couple of years, the only time I really saw him was when we were in Portland. But we always made a point to talk with each other for a while before and after the games. That type of stuff.

AK: Obviously, your dad thought a lot of Maurice to name you after him. How did he used to describe Maurice to you, during his playing days and off the court?

LW: He always told us the greatest two teammates he ever had were Larry Bird and Maurice Lucas. He had nothing but great things to say about him, on and off the court. His character. The person he was. It's obviously tough, knowing my dad just lost one of his best friends. He always spoke very highly of him and every time we saw him, he was always great to us. A lot of fun to talk to. To hang out with. A big, loving, caring type of man.

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