Home News Jack Sikma, Seattle Sonics champion center, Hall of Fame-bound

Jack Sikma, Seattle Sonics champion center, Hall of Fame-bound

Jack Sikma, all-star center for the 1978-79 NBA champion Seattle SuperSonics, was officially elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The Illinois-born Sikma was a 7-time NBA All-Star, enjoying a 14 -year career with the Sonics and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Following an impressive college career at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he earned NAIA All-American honors three times and was voted conference player of the year three years in a row, he was drafted by Seattle as the eighth pick in the first round of the 1977 NBA Draft.

The pick was derided by many initially. Sikma himself wasn’t interested in coming to Seattle, Larry Stone at The Seattle Times points out, when coach Lenny Wilkens reached out to gauge interest prior to the draft. Wilkens was steadfast, and Sikma would go on to earn All-Rookie Team honors in his first season, helping lead the Sonics to the first of back-to-back Finals appearances against the Washington Bullets.

His second season, the team would climb the mountain and claim league victory.

Sikma and the Sonics would return to a third straight conference final the following year, though they’d eventually lose to that season’s NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. In all, Sikma played in the postseason 11 times.

All seven of his consecutive All-Star years were with the Sonics, also earning All-Defensive Second Team honors in the 1981-82 season while leading the league in defensive rebounds. He’d also top the league in that stat in the 1983-84 season. With Seattle’s decline following the highs of the late ’70s and early ’80s, though, Sikma asked to be traded. He would spend the final five years of his career with Milwaukee.

The center’s shooting skill to match his defensive prowess heralded a new way to use the position. His signature ability to hold the basketball at head level with his back to the net in the low post and then pivot and shoot from behind and over his head became known as the “Sikma move“. It’s in common use today.

Following his retirement in 1991, the Sonics honored Sikma by retiring his number 43 the next year. He would join the team as an assistant coach under Nate McMillan in 2003, and also had stints as an assistant with the Houston Rockets and the Minnesota Timberwolves, helping to hone talented centers Yao Ming and Kevin Love.

This latest honor joins his induction into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2012 and induction into the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. Enshrinement will take place in September.

Sikma will also be joined in the 2019 Hall of Fame class by his former Sonics teammate Paul Westphal, who played in Seattle for the 1980-81 season.

Westphal was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1972 and would win a championship with the club in the 1973-74 season. He’d primarily be associated with the Phoenix Suns, playing six seasons with the team over two stints, including the 1975-76 season that saw the team in the Finals against Boston and its legendary Game 5 that some have called the greatest NBA game ever played.

As a coach, Westphal would lead the Suns to their second NBA Finals appearance in 1993. He’d also coach the Sonics from 1998-2000.

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Chris Meirose
Editor
mrclm

I had just come into liking the Sonics as Sikma was sent to Milwaukee. Even in Milwaukee, he was one of my early “hero” players as I was a center growing up.

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