BY SPNW Staff 11:03PM 04/06/2019

Sikma held his own in the NBA’s age of giants

In a time when giants dominated the NBA, Hall of Famer Jack Sikma turned to face his Sonics foes with a unique jump shot that “drove them nuts,” he said.

Jack Sikma met the media in Minneapolis following his selection Saturday to the Basketball Hall of Fame. / Chris Tomasson, Sportspress Northwest

BY CHRIS TOMASSON

MINNEAPOLIS — Jack Sikma was talking Saturday about the top centers he faced in his NBA career. Then he mentioned Shaquille O’Neal.

“I missed him by a couple of years,’’ Sikma, who retired in 1991, said of O’Neal, who entered the league in 1992.

Sikma paused.

“Put it this way: He missed me,’’ Sikma said, smiling.

Pardon the former Seattle SuperSonics star if he now can be a bit more braggadocious. He was named Saturday at the Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, joining O’Neal and other eminent giants.

The 6-foot-11 Sikma played from 1977 to 1991 in what was a golden age for centers. He posted up against many of the greats: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Bob Lanier, Robert Parish, Bill Walton, Artis Gilmore.

“There’s some stories,’’ Sikma said. “Moses was just so tenacious. You just had to get really ready for him and geared up. His teammates knew that if you did stop him from doing something one time, they’d get on him a little bit, and he’s coming at you twice as hard.’’

Abdul-Jabbar was an imperial nemesis when the two played in the Pacific Division, Sikma from  1977-86, then finishing with Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers superstar came to Los Angeles from Milwaukee in 1975 and retired in 1989.

Source: Wikipedia

“I probably saw as many sky hooks from Kareem in this position as anyone that played,’’ Sikma said, looking up. “I was in the Western Conference for a long time when he was with the Lakers. This view (looking up) still causes some angst: ‘Please miss a few.’ But they were good battles.’’

Sikma had a trick up his sleeve when he went up against the behemoths. In an era when most centers played with backs to the basket, Sikma regularly would step outside and face the hoop with a reverse pivot, which cleared room for his unblockable behind-the-head jumper.

“That was my strength,’’ said Sikma, who averaged 15.6 points and 9.8 rebounds in his 14-year career, including his best year in 1981-82 when he averaged 19 points and 12 boards. “I was going to back them down. I wasn’t going to overpower Gilmore or Lanier.

“They had to adjust to me. I know it drove some of them nuts because I just stuck (the ball) back there farther and got over the top of them. I was going to put them in an uncomfortable situation by turning and facing, trying to create a little bit of space.’’

Sikma improved as a shooter throughout his career. With Milwaukee in 1987-88, he led the NBA in free-throw percentage at 92.2, and remains the tallest player to ever lead in that category.

A mid-range specialist with the Sonics, Sikma extended his range with the Bucks. The three-point shot was introduced in the NBA in 1979-80, but in the early years was not used much. In his final three seasons, Sikma moved toward the perimeter and became a marksman for a big man of the era –196 threes in 550 attempts, 35.6 percent.

Sikma missed O’Neal by two seasons. Had they matched up, Sikma would have enjoyed making Shaq Diesel run out of gas chasing him beyond the three-point stripe.


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YourThoughts

  • DB

    Do we think of Franco Harris or Jerry Rice as Seahawk NFL Hall of Famers? If not, why would we think of guys who basically had a cup of coffee with the Sonics at the ends of their careers as Supersonic NBA Hall of Famers? Patrick Ewing? Sarunas Marciulionis? Really? Even David Thompson and Paul Westphal are a reach as their playing accomplishments are associated far more with the Nuggets and Suns than the Sonics.

    • Husky73

      Gaylord Perry, Goose Gossage, Dick Williams and Ricky Henderson– Mariners.

      • art thiel

        It’s all true. They played for the Mariners. “Belonging’ is up to you.

    • art thiel

      C’mon now. The list is complete, including the coffee-cuppers. No one is misled. The tenure is listed. I’d forgotten about the short-timers. It’s worth sharing.

  • jafabian

    Jack played at a time when all good teams had an All-Star playing the center position. At a time with no Sportscenter you didn’t have players growing up wanting to be the next Air Jordan. They took what was given to them. And Jack more than held his own against them and got something few of them received: a championship. His battles against Wes Unseld were incredible.

    So now that he and Westphal have made it I wonder if we might see other former Sonics at least considered? Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, Sam Perkins, maybe a few others including Sam Schulman. Getting more Sonics remembered not only would give these players an honor well earned but get discussion started on restoring the NBA’s history in Seattle.

    The list of former Sonics should also include current Warriors Team President and COO Rick Welts who was a Sonics executive.

    • Considered for what? Hall of Fame? You’ve got your homer goggles on if you think any of those names you mentioned has any shot.

    • Skeezix

      jafabian — Rick Welts IS in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame —- He went in last year alongside former Seattle Supersonics Rod Thorn and Ray Allen….From the HOF website —- Rick Welts
      “What began as infatuation when his hometown Seattle SuperSonics first took the floor in 1968 became a full-fledged love affair with the game of basketball that has now lasted more than 50 years. During that time, Rick Welts helped the game evolve from an afterthought to the forefront of a global sporting conscience. Welts began his career as a ballboy with the Sonics before moving into the front office where he shared in the glory of his team winning the 1979 NBA championship. His talent was remarkable, and before long he attracted the discerning eye of soon-to-be commissioner David Stern for a position in the league office. Young and ambitious, Welts began to build the NBA into a viable brand, helping to market and promote the Dream Team, the WNBA, and All-Star Weekend. Welts’ passion led him to the Phoenix Suns and then on to the Golden State Warriors, where championships soon followed, including three in a span of four years from 2015 to 2018.”

      • jafabian

        Right. That’s my point.

    • DB

      Rick Welts is in the Hall. He went in last year.

      • art thiel

        True. Good catch. His later tenures as NBA’s No. 3 guy, and president of the Suns and Warriors, earned the honor, but he did start in SEA.

      • jafabian

        Right, that’s my point.

    • art thiel

      I’m not sure any remaining figure in Sonics history merits enshrinement. Kemp remains the best highlight film, but his numbers don’t measure up, and his later years had a big dropoff.