Jamaal Wilkes is one of the greatest winners in basketball history. He won two national championships at UCLA, an NBA title with the Golden State Warriors and three more with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Those three titles with the Lakers, of course, came with Magic Johnson running the point.
“It was awesome,” Wilkes said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show, referring to his time playing with Johnson. “I knew he was going to be very good, but I didn’t know he was going to be great so fast. He’s a freakish kind of talent because he’s a 6-9 point guard and I can’t name another point guard since or before that was 6-9. He could see over the defense. He could see what was developing before it developed.”
Hmm, sounds like someone else we know. It sounds like LeBron James.
With seemingly everyone comparing James to Michael Jordan these days, might Johnson be a better comparison?
“Yes, I think both are valid comparisons, but LeBron is a terrific passer just like Magic was,” Wilkes said. “Magic often played power forward in addition to point guard his first couple of seasons in the NBA, and LeBron can play multiple positions as well. LeBron is a better defender along the lines of Michael Jordan and I think has a better jump shot, but Magic developed as a very fine shooter as his career went on.”
People also keep talking about James catching Jordan in rings, but he has to catch Johnson first. If James can lead the Cavaliers to an NBA title, he’ll have three championships – still two behind Johnson, who has five.
Wilkes believes Golden State should be favored in this series, but he absolutely believes Cleveland can win.
“It just seems like they’ve really grown up in the past four to six weeks playing without Kevin Love (and) an in-and-out Kyrie Irving,” Wilkes said. “His health will be a key factor in all of this. But the other players have rallied around LeBron and stepped up their game. You know LeBron’s going to step up his game, but the other guys seem to as well. So it’s not a lock by any stretch of the imagination.”
The NBA Finals features a compelling matchup between Stephen Curry, the MVP, and James, who is still considered by most the best player in the world.
“They’re going to have to play their game, but they’re going to have to inspire everyone else to rise to the occasion as well,” Wilkes said of the dynamic duo. “The Warriors haven’t been to the Finals in 40 years. Steph Curry hasn’t been in a championship series, so it’s new to all of them. Fortunately for the Warriors, their coach, Steve Kerr, has big-time championship experience.”
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are just the opposite. David Blatt will has never been to the NBA Finals, but his best player has. A lot.
“LeBron, of course, has been there five years in a row,” Wilkes said. “(He and Curry are) going to have to inspire their teammates to rise to the occasion.”