Jamaal Wilkes was once a prolific wing who was second in scoring on two Lakers championship teams that were led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Does he get enough credit historically for his role on those teams?
By Jay Ramos
Remember Jamaal Wilkes? Norm Nixon?
What do you remember about Horace Grant?
It doesn’t appear to be the case in the moment, but Chris Bosh could be grouped with those names when his career is looked back on more than 20 years from now. Although it may seem like stars pairing up is a new thing, Bosh is far from the first one to do this when he joined the Miami Heat in 2010. And he isn’t the first All-Star caliber player who is paired with two superstars. There have been a few dynasty’s beforehand, but we will focus on the last 30’s years here.
Wikles signed with the Lakers as a free agent to join up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1977. A few years later, Magic Johnson landed in Los Angeles after saying he would have went back to school at Michigan State if the Lakers didn’t get the first pick to select him with. Wikles efficiently averaged more than 20 points on the Lakers 1980 and 1982 title teams, including a forgotten 37-point performance in game six of the 1980 finals, which was overshadowed by Johnson’s legendary 42-point game. On a loaded team, Nixon was a fourth wheel on a champion, also contributing in a big way to those two titles, as he averaged over 17 points per game in both of those regular seasons.
Of course Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar should be remembered more for leading those Laker teams to their 80’s dynasty. But does the perception of those teams treat Wilkes and Nixon fairly? The Lakers drafted James Worthy in 1982 and he eventually replaced Wikles, but he is pretty fairly remembered for his contributions to three Laker titles in the 80’s. Both are Hall of Famers.
To focus in on Worthy and Wikles, let’s look at their statistics during the first seven years of their Laker career, where the five titles were won between them.
Both we’re a big part of teams that won multiple titles.
Scroll into the 90’s and Grant essentially averages a double-double during the Bulls first three peat. He only made one All-star game in his time in Chicago, and isn’t quite in the HOF room with Worthy, Wilkes and Bosh, but he was impactful enough to warrant being considered part of a “big three” with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. I find that younger fans don’t even know much about Grant, and older fans many times misremember his role on those teams. Dennis Rodman, on the other hand, got the Worthy treatment and is known for being a big contributor to the Bull’s second three-peat of the decade. Perhaps a lot of that had to do with his personality, but he is also a Hall of Famer and happened to be the best rebounder of his generation.
This leads us to Bosh.
Will Bosh be historically remembered as part of the Heat’s big three and adequately praised for his impact on this current Heat team? Will he be remembered in the breath of Worthy or better, or will he be casted into the shadows like Wilkes and Grant?
What is sure to help Bosh is that he was a prolific All-Star in his own right before he joined forces in Miami with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, so there is memory of him producing higher numbers and sustaining volume with a lot of usage on the floor. But there is also the factor that fans love superstars, and if James gets on a roll and wins multiple titles, he’s going to get his deserved credit, just like he is pounded when he comes up short. Wade’s reputation is already fairly cemented as a superstar that is destined for the Hall of Fame as well.
That deserved credit James will get could cast Bosh to the side.
But for perspective, the two primary dynasty’s of the last thirty years (80’s Lakers and 90’s Bulls) each had a two different third wheels to go along pair of superstars during their run. But the perception of that third wheel is a bit different in separate cases. All of this goes into predicting what Bosh’s legacy will be when he’s done. In reality, he is on path to be a Hall of Famer, and whether or not the next generation of fans realizes this enough to take it into account with these Heat’s team’s in twenty years, is unpredictable.