Wilkes, nicknamed “Silk” during his playing days, joins the likes of Magic Johnson, Jerry West, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Elgin Baylor in having his jersey retired by the Lakers. Wilkes, who was nominated to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year, spent eight seasons at the Staples Center between 1977 – 1985.
Speaking on court during halftime of the Lakers’ game against Portland, an emotional Wilkes said:
“I think it says a lot about the Laker tradition. They’ve had some awesome basketball players, and now I’m one of them. Being front and center, and now I look in the mirror, and I go, ‘Wow.’ It’s cool, and yet it’s emotional for me.”
The Lakers legend admitted it would take time for the honor to truly sink in:
“I’m just enjoying it. I think months later, it will hit me, the true significance of it all.”
Jamaal Wilkes’ emotional acceptance speech was applauded several times by a sellout crowd that included fellow Laker honorees West, Worthy, Abdul-Jabbar and Baylor.
Wilkes forged a reputation as a formidable supporting player for the Los Angeles Lakers, proving a vital team player on three title-winning teams in the early 1980s. Both on and off the court, the quietly spoken 59-year-old rarely sought the spotlight, and on Friday told an adoring audience:
“I had kind of got used to being a private citizen, and now I’m front and center. I think the fact that it is a year-long merry-go-round makes it more special for me.”
While a Lakers jersey hasn’t been retired since Gail Goodrich’s No. 25 went on the wall in 1996, the Los Angeles team will repeat the honor for Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34 on April 2.
You can watch the full Jamaal Wilkes shirt retirement ceremony below: