Dennis Rodman is a Hall of Famer, but Jamaal Wilkes is not?
The Worm is in, but Silk is not? Seriously?
It may be hard to believe, but it’s true.
Rodman let it slip Friday night during his Pistons jersey retirement ceremony that he had been asked to fly to Houston for Monday’s announcement of the latest class to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Wilkes, unfortunately, found out recently that he is, once again, not invited to attend.
This is not a knock on Rodman, who was a tremendous player during his NBA career, but his overall basketball resume falls well short of Wilkes’.
Some might argue that Rodman earned his place in the Hall by being one of the best rebounders of all-time and one of the best defenders of his generation. I have no argument with that rationale.
However, Wilkes was also one of the best of his generation at every level of competition.
As a prep All-American at Santa Barbara High School, Wilkes led the Dons to a championship.
At UCLA, Wilkes became a two-time All-American en route to winning two national titles under legendary coach John Wooden, averaging 15.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg while shooting 51.4 percent from the field. He was named to the 1972 NCAA Tournament All-Tournament team, and helped the Bruins win a NCAA record 88 games in a row.
During his 12-year NBA career, Wilkes won Rookie of the Year honors in 1975 (from a draft class that included Bill Walton, Bobby Jones, Maurice Lucas, and George Gervin), earned three trips to the All-Star game, and played on four championship teams.
Wilkes wasn’t just a winner at every level; he was a star at every level.
Plus, the last time I checked, it’s the “Basketball” Hall of Fame, not the Defense, Rebounding, or NBA Hall of Fame.
Just because Rodman earns praise for being one of the best specialists the game has ever seen, it doesn’t mean Wilkes should be overlooked because he was a better well-rounded basketball player.
And if you want to talk about defense, you might want to go back and review the film, stats and quotes regarding Wilkes ability to shut down opposing players. Marques Johnson likes to tell the story that after his first day of practice at UCLA, after being the top-rated recruit in the country, he called home crying to his father because Wilkes wouldn’t let him get a shot off during practice.
Johnson’s father responded by saying, “Boy, stop crying. Wilkes is the best defensive player in the country!”
After Johnson dried his tears and rose to the challenge of facing Wilkes in practice every day, he went on to become the first-ever recipient of the John Wooden Award signifying the best player in college basketball.
And speaking of Wooden, who won 10 national titles and coached tens of All-Americans at UCLA, he was once asked to describe his ideal player. This was his response: “I would have the player be a good student, polite, courteous, a good team player, a good defensive player and rebounder, a good inside player and outside shooter. Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that?"
Could there be higher praise for a player? Don’t forget, John Wooden is in the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. I believe the man knew a little something about talent. Or as the kids like to say, game recognizes game. Especially Hall of Fame game!