Jamaal Wilkes

Jamaal Wilkes, Hall of Fame Athlete

Santa Barbara has turned out more than its share of outstanding athletes over the years – Eddie Mathews and Jesse Orosco in baseball; Sam and Randall Cunningham, Booker Brown and Larry Moriarty in footfall; and Al Geiberger, Buddy Allin, Sam Randolph, Jr. and Steve Pate in golf, to name a few. Although Santa Barbara has also produced a number of highly talented basketball players, the one name that stands out above all others is Jamaal Wilkes. Nicknamed “Silk” for his smooth style of play, Wilkes is undoubtedly the greatest · basketball player ever to come out of the city.

Wilkes, who moved here with his family from Ventura for his senior year in high school, was voted CIF Class 4A Player of the Year after guiding the Santa Barbara High Dons to the playoff semifinals during the 1969-70 season before losing their only game of the season to Millikan High.

The 6-foot-7, 190-pound forward, who could score almost at will, went on to UCLA where he twice won first-team, All-American honors and helped the Bruins to two NCAA Championships. John Wooden, former UCLA coach, called Wilkes the most talented player he ever coached.

Wilkes’ success continued in the professional ranks. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year for Golden State in 1974-75 while helping the Warriors win the world championship.

In 1977, Wilkes joined the Los Angeles Lakers. He played an integral part in the Lakers winning three NBA Championships. His best season with the Lakers was 1980-81 when he averaged 22.6 points per game, 11th best in the league. A year earlier he averaged 20 points per game and tallied 3 7 points in the sixth and final game of the NBA Championship Series against Philadelphia, which the Lakers won 123- 107.

He also averaged 21.2 points in 1981-82 when the Lakers won another NBA title.

Plagued by injuries and reduction of playing time, Wilkes was released by the Lakers during the summer of 1985. Although he was signed by the L.A. Clippers, Wilkes retired from basketball shortly after the 1985-86 season started.