Los Angeles Lakers Legends Overshadowed Jamaal Wilkes’ Hall-of-Fame Career

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Lakers usually find a way to remain competitive each year no matter the circumstances, though it's not necessarily because of the team's ability to attract marquee names.

The franchise's latest Hall of Fame inductee, 6-foot-6 swingman Jamaal Wilkes, is the type of player who was a shining example of why the Lakers have won 16 championships in their history.

Los Angeles has been graced with such supreme talent, that even Hall-of-Famers can go unnoticed among the greats.

But to call Wilkes just a role player doesn't do the California native justice. His contributions were large, and they were timely. He made a career out of quietly producing behind big-name players like Rick Barry of the Golden State Warriors and Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the Lakers.

He won three NBA championships as a player, two of which came with the Lakers. He was a major component of each of those teams, but no contribution was more noteworthy than Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Wilkes would finish with 37 points on the night and go 5-of-5 from the free throw line. But it was Magic Johnson's 42-point performance that would make headlines and earn the rookie the NBA Finals MVP award as the team clinched the series, 4-2.

That game would prove to be a microcosm of Wilkes' career.

The numbers substantiate just how good of a career it was for Wilkes. He averaged 17.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 2.5 assists per game over the course of his career. He made three appearances in the NBA All Star Game in 1976, 1981, and 1983.

It were his contributions to some of the greatest teams in NBA history -- the Lakers of the 1980s -- that made him a Hall-of-Famer. It's also a testament as to just how special those teams were. Wilkes is living proof that depth matters in the NBA, both in the past and present day.

The Lakers are right to honor Wilkes by retiring his No. 52 jersey among the rafters at Staples Center. Magic and Kareem may have gotten the glory, but it was the former UCLA Bruin who is getting the well-deserved recognition for his part in adding to the greatness of the Lakers' dynasty.

Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and a Southern California-based sports journalist and editor. You can read him at SB Nation, Bleacher Report, and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor / Founder of Sports Out West. To contact Michael, follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.

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