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Former Bruin-Lakers Great to Have Jersey Retired Tonight at Staples Center

Jamaal Wilkes' No. 52 jersey will be retired at halftime during tonight's Lakers game versus the Portland Trailblazers.

The Los Angeles Lakers will retire the No. 52 jersey of Jamaal Wilkes at halftime of Friday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center, eight months after his election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak, a Laker teammate of Wilkes from 1981-85, will join Wilkes in speaking at the jersey retirement ceremony.

Wilkes, who attended UCLA, signed with the Lakers as a free agent in 1977 after spending the first three seasons of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. He was named as the NBA's Rookie of the Year for the 1974-75 season, when he helped the Warriors to their only championship on the West Coast.

The 6-foot-6-inch forward played for the Lakers from 1977-85 and was best known for his unorthodox but smooth corner jump shot the team's late legendary announcer Chick Hearn referred to as the "20-foot layup," and then- coach Paul Westhead described as "snow falling off a bamboo leaf."

"Jamaal was one of my favorite players," former NBA forward Kiki Vandeweghe told City News Service in an interview this week. "It looked like he was effortless out on the court, and yet I just hated playing against him as much as I liked him personally. He was just very difficult to play against."

"He was extremely fast; very, very quick, great hands, could stick to you like glue. On offense he was very tricky, could shoot much better than you thought and was very hard to guard."

When Wilkes was elected to the Hall of Fame in April, Lakers owner Jerry Buss said, "Anyone who truly knows and loves the game of basketball surely recognizes what a special and gifted player Jamaal Wilkes was.

"A rare combination of selflessness and grace, Jamaal made the game look effortless," Buss said. "It's easy to forget that Jamaal averaged 20- plus points during our 1980 and 1982 championship seasons. Many also don't recall he scored 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the decisive Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals.

"He was overlooked because he put the team first, the individual second and let others shine."

Wilkes' jersey will be the eighth retired by the Lakers, following those worn by Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, James Worthy and Gail Goodrich, all Hall of Fame members.

Wilkes' No. 52 was worn by two players after he was waived by the Lakers in 1985 -- center Mike Smrek, who played with the team from 1986-88, and forward Samaki Walker, a Laker from 2001-2003.

The 59-year-old Wilkes now operates the Westchester-based wealth management firm Jamaal Wilkes Financial Advisors, which specializes in investment-grade gold and silver, rare U.S. coins and precious metals.

- City News Service

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