biography, Jamaal Wilkes, NBA champion

Jamaal Wilkes Tells the Story of an NBA Champion in his Memoir, Smooth As Silk

By Gina Bee, Chicago Defender Contributing Writer

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In his recently released memoir, former NBA champion Jamaal Wilkes talks about what it truly means to be “Smooth As Silk.”

While he earned his nickname in his college days at UCLA for his silky smooth moves on the basketball court, he is also a humble and genuinely nice guy. Being a polite and engaging conversationalist, it’s easy to momentarily forget that Jamaal is one of the most accomplished athletes and greatest small forwards that ever graced a stadium – until he recalls a quick off-the-cuff anecdote about his time on the court with Magic and Kareem.

Pro basketball fans were introduced to Jamaal Wilkes in 1974, when the UCLA All-American NCAA victor was drafted by the Golden State Warriors and made an impact that assisted his team to a championship victory in 1975 and garnered the esteemed Rookie of the Year award. After three seasons with the Warriors, Jamaal signed with the LA Lakers during the famed Showtime era.

The Showtime Lakers were famous because of the Hollywood atmosphere and exciting fast breaks. The team had incredible athletic horsepower, featuring rookie Magic Johnson, a more seasoned Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar, and the stealthy smooth moves of Jamaal Wilkes.

We could have talked for hours on several subjects, but our primary topic was his autobiography in which he outlines the components of his moniker – a well-rounded athletic champion, businessman, husband and father.

Although the accolades in his 12 season basketball career are impressive – Rookie of the Year in 1975, four NBA championship wins with the Golden State Warriors and the LA Lakers, a retired jersey and induction into the Hall of Fame – Jamaal is most dedicated to living up to being “Smooth As Silk,” which is a persona that extends much deeper than his moves on the basketball court.

“I’m really proud of that nickname,” he says, “In high school they called me Spider, so when I got the nickname in college, it was a serious upgrade. It became a state of mind. I really felt like Smooth as Silk, to me, meant poise and being within myself as much as possible. Not losing control. It definitely meant being on top of my game.

“During practices, I really paid great attention to detail with a sense of urgency. [Being Silk meant] practicing so well that it became second nature to me on the basketball court, so that I did the most with the least amount of energy while being consistent. It meant being a decent person – showing others respect. It meant taking the time for the fans when I didn’t feel like it. I felt that because of that moniker, I had an obligation to live up to.”

In Smooth As Silk, Jamaal also talks about enhancing his game by building bridges with others, exploring new philosophies and dabbling in martial arts to achieve mental and spiritual balance.

Jamaal began writing his memoir for his fan base – which has grown with the popularity of ESPN Classics. The second inspiration was his family. His children never got a chance to see him play and he wanted to capture his experiences and philosophies. Additionally, because he had a solid upbringing by a Baptist preacher and has raised three children himself, Jamaal was interested in using his stories and experiences as a way to uplift and inspire young people.

In his book, Jamaal stresses his belief that young people should understand that they can fail without being a failure. Because of the social media, he believes that the young people tend to crucify themselves, and older generations should embrace our youth, and “give them a hug, whenever we get a chance.”

For more Smooth As Silk philosophies, grab a copy of the book, and watch your calendars for tour dates.

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