With all the hype of the Showtime Era centered around players like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it’s easy to forget some of the other contributors. Jamaal Wilkes wasn’t quite Magic or Kareem, but his unique, smooth style of play earned him the title “Silk,” and it was his career high 37 point effort that helped propel the Lakers forward and clinch Game 6 of 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
All of the attention was on the 6’9 rookie point-guard Magic Johnson, who’s often times superhuman abilities on the court enabled him to play all 5 positions. Magic finished with a game high of 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists.
His monstrous performance earned him the the title of MVP, but what really stood out was Magic’s insistence that Jamaal Wilkes’ solid performance not go unnoticed. That was really something coming from a rookie at the time.
Wilkes also outplayed legendary small forward Julius Erving, who’s 27 point outbreak wasn’t enough to stop Silk from having his way with the Sixers. With Game 6 tied at the half, the Lakers came out the gates strong with a 14 point run that blew the game wide open.
Wilkes scored 16 of his 37 points in the third period, and was the game’s leading scorer until Magic eventually surpassed him with a couple of made free-throws after the game was iced and the Sixers resorted to late-game fouling.
Wilkes also added 10 rebounds to the mix and despite his performance basically being forgotten about over the years, he has never let that affect him. Without his effort, the conclusion to that tightly contested match-up could’ve been different, especially with players like Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks on the opposing team and the loss of Kareem, who eventually left the game due to injury.
Wilkes eventually earned his due when he was inducted to the Hall of Fame on April 2, 2012, nearly 3 decades after his retirement.