Nationals

LA Lakers retire Jamaal Wilkes' No. 52 jersey

201212282316837941881-p2.jpeg

LA Lakers retire Jamaal Wilkes' No. 52 jersey

LOS ANGELES (AP) Jamaal Wilkes spent most of his successful basketball career as a remarkable supporting player.

The Los Angeles Lakers felt it was time to put Silk under the spotlight.

Wilkes' jersey was retired by the Lakers on Friday night, putting the smooth scorer in company with the franchise's Hall of Fame stars on the walls high above Staples Center.

Wilkes was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year. The Lakers, who only retire Hall of Famers' jerseys, formally hung his No. 52 next to Magic Johnson's No. 32 during halftime of their game against Portland.

``I think it says a lot about the Laker tradition,'' Wilkes said. ``They've had some awesome basketball players, and now I'm one of them. Being front and center, and now I look in the mirror, and I go, `Wow.' It's cool, and yet it's emotional for me.''

Wilkes was visibly touched by the honor, choking up while thanking his fellow Lakers greats amid several big ovations from the sellout crowd. Jerry West, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elgin Baylor all showed up to support their fellow Lakers honoree.

``I'm just enjoying it,'' Wilkes said. ``I think months later, it will hit me, the true significance of it all.''

The 59-year-old Wilkes is a California native who starred at UCLA before winning his first NBA championship as a rookie at Golden State. He was a key supporting player on three Lakers title-winning teams of the 1980s, with a jumper that was as unorthodox as it was reliable.

A supporting role never bothered the former Keith Wilkes, who won a title as an NBA rookie alongside Rick Barry and Clifford Ray at Golden State before adding three more rings in Los Angeles.

``I always prided myself on winning,'' Wilkes said. ``I learned at a very young age, you can debate who the best player was or wasn't, but you can't debate who won or lost. So that's where my priorities went, and I played with some pretty good players along the way. I like to think that they made me better, and I made them better because I was able to adapt to different situations, and I was a good influence in the locker room.''

He was also a superb scorer who won two NCAA titles at UCLA alongside Bill Walton before the Warriors drafted him in the first round and promptly won an unlikely NBA title with the slim, 6-foot-6 Wilkes as their power forward.

Wilkes' supporting character was epitomized in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA finals. He had 37 points and 10 rebounds in a spectacular game, but was thoroughly overshadowed by Johnson's 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in the title-clinching win.

Wilkes scored 14,664 points before retiring after a few games with the Clippers in 1985.

Wilkes still isn't done being honored. Santa Barbara High School will retire his jersey next month, and his face is a prominent feature at the freshly renovated Pauley Pavilion on UCLA's campus, where he's still a wildly popular figure even though both of his sons played college ball at California.

All of the attention is unusual to the soft-spoken star, but he's handling it just fine.

``I had kind of got used to being a private citizen, and now I'm front and center,'' Wilkes said. ``I think the fact that it is a yearlong merry-go-round makes it more special for me.''

The Lakers hadn't retired a number since Gail Goodrich's No. 25 went on the wall in 1996, but they aren't done for the season: Shaquille O'Neal's No. 34 goes up April 2.

Quick Links

Juan Soto's Wild Card game-winning hit broke Eric Thames’ heart

Juan Soto's Wild Card game-winning hit broke Eric Thames’ heart

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Eric Thames felt like something bad was about to happen last fall after Michael A. Taylor reached first base next to him.

Milwaukee held a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when Taylor was awarded first base after a review determined the call of hit by pitch would stand. The ruling was dubious. Regardless, Taylor was on first and the unraveling process for Josh Hader and the Brewers had begun.

“The playoffs is all about mojo and there’s certain plays you’re [like] oh, it's not looking good,” Thames told NBC Sports Washington. “And it was the hit by pitch to Taylor, reviewed it, hit off the knob, they reviewed said hit by pitch. We were all pretty upset about that. Once [Ryan Zimmerman] got the broken-bat single, it was like, oh, man here we go.”

Anthony Rendon sidled up to Thames after his walk loaded the bases later in the inning. Juan Soto was next, a left-on-left fight with Hader pending. He singled to right, sending the ball past Thames and toward Trent Grisham, who overran the ball after an odd hop.


 
“You know Juan is a passionate player,” Thames said. “You know he’s hungry to get the big hit. Once that ball went over my head, I was like, all right, here we go. Let’s hold it. Once that ball got past Grisham, my heart just like… the crowd was quiet the whole game until that moment. It was like bombs went off. We couldn't hear anything. I was leading off that next inning. It was the weirdest feeling. It was like my heart was in my stomach. It was heartbreaking.”

Thames struck out. The Brewers lost, beginning the Nationals’ stomach-churning run toward the World Series.

He was bitter for about four or five days. But, he watched. The Nationals kept coming back, he watched more. Stationed in a bar, still a bit upset by the idea this could have been the Brewers’ run, Thames began to develop an affinity for what Washington was doing, one that eventually landed him in the clubhouse this spring to split time at first base and provide left-handed, pinch-hit power.

“We all would have been pissed if the Astros or the 'powerhouse team,' if they won, but these guys came from the bottom, they scratched their way up, the way the games finished was exciting,” Thames said. “Like Howie’s home run off the poll -- I watch that replay all the time. To see the entire stadium in Houston just get quiet. Oh, it was awesome.

“I watched every game at a bar with a bunch of beer drowning my sorrows with nachos.”

Thames spilled his beer when Kendrick homered against Will Harris. Three-plus months later, he and Kendrick were sitting two chairs apart in West Palm Beach, Thames’ heart presumably back into his chest.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Washington Capitals vs. Winnipeg Jets: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to watch

Washington Capitals vs. Winnipeg Jets: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to watch

The Caps take on the Jets Thursday night for a rematch, this time in Winnipeg's territory, after the Caps won 4-3 in overtime win at Capital One Tuesday.

After Alex Ovechkin's 700th goal pre-game ceremony, he got goal No. 701 just minutes into the contest.

Here is everything you need to know about Thursday night's game, which takes place at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

CAPITALS VS. JETS GAME 64: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Winnipeg Jets
Where: Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg, Canada
When: Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Jets game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Jets on NBC Sports Washington’s live stream page and on the NBC Sports App. 
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS VS. JETS TV SCHEDULE

7:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
7:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
8:00 PM: Capitals vs. Jets (LIVE)
10:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live 
11:00 PM: Chasing Greatness
11:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS VS. JETS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: No injuries 
Jets: Josh Morrissey, D, upper body, day-to-day
Sami Niku, D, undisclosed, day-to-day
Luca Sbisa, D, upper body, injured reserved
Brian Little, C, upper body, injured reserved

CAPITALS VS. JETS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (43-17-60): Ovi is always one to watch on the Caps. With goal No. 701 against the Jets Tuesday, he'll look to keep the momentum going with more goals Thursday night.

Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Jets (23-29-52): Ehlers had a goal and an assist on five shots against the Caps in Tuesday's game. The Caps will need to put the pressure on Ehlers on defense.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: