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We continue the NBA Jersey Countdown with number 43 and a player that all hoops fans will recognise if they watched any NBA basketball at all during the 80’s.
Jack Sikma was drafted in the first round (8th pick overall) of the 1977 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics. Sikma joined a Seattle squad that included players such as a young Dennis Johnson (2nd year), a winding down Paul Silas and a future Sonics GM in Wally Walker.
The team was coming off a 40-42 season in which they missed the Playoffs in their fourth season under coach Bill Russell (yes, that Bill Russell). The Sonics and the great one Russell parted company the following season as Sikma entered the league for his rookie campaign.
The Sonics hired a new coach Bob Hopkins but started the 1977-78 season with only five wins from their first 22 games. While Hopkins gave Sikma his first NBA start, he was swiftly replaced by the 40 year old Lenny Wilkens, who was somewhat of a prodigal son having played and coached in Seattle previously. The team went on to win 42 of their next 60 games to book themselves a spot in the Playoffs.
Sikma’s rookie campaign was solid, registering 10.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while playing in every regular season contest. He was known for being reliable and his statistical output earned him an All-Rookie First Team selection. As the Sonics tore through the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trailblazers and Denver Nuggets en route to the NBA Finals, Sikma’s numbers increased.
By the end of the seventh game of their NBA Finals series versus the Washington Bullets, Sikma had increased his production and earned more minutes as a result. All was well really except for one thing… The Bullets were the 1978 NBA Champions, having beaten Sikma’s Sonics in that final game 105-99. A season that had started off so badly had ended up just inches away from an NBA title. The Sonics and Sikma would be back the following season with a vengeance.
When reviewing the history books, the 1979 NBA season really was all about the Sonics. Lenny Wilkens controlled the team for the entire season, leading Seattle to a 52-30 record which was the best in the Western Conference. The Sonics made the Playoffs again and faced the Washington Bullets in the NBA Finals again, only this time the final result was different.
Jack Sikma, in only his second NBA season had increased his production from his rookie season in every statistical category that the league recorded. Sikma’s line of 15.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and one steal per game was good enough to earn him his first All-Star selection and helped the Seattle Supersonics claim their first (and still only) NBA title.
The Sonics got their revenge over the Bullets in five games (of a best-of-seven series) and while Dennis Johnson won the Finals MVP, Sikma was instrumental in the victory pulling down an average of 16 rebounds per contest after their Game 1 loss.
Sikma played the next seven seasons with the Supersonics, experiencing mixed team success after the Championship. While he did not return to the NBA Finals, Sikma himself picked up a number of personal accolades.
By the time the 1985-86 season had concluded, he had played in seven All-Star Games, made an All-Defensive Second Team and finished sixth or better across the league in rebounding six times. Jack was now practically a 20 point, 10 rebound guy and had carved out a reputation as somewhat of an ironman, having only missed 23 games during his long stint with the Sonics.
On July 1986 Sikma was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Alton Lister among a bunch of draft picks. One of which was a 1987 first rounder, eventually used on current Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson.
While his statistical output slowly declined over his final five years in the NBA, Sikma gave the Bucks some great service. He once again proved his endurance by missing only 18 games during his time in Milwaukee. The Bucks made the Playoffs in all five of Sikma’s campaigns, ironically missing out the year after he retired.
Jack Sikma’s career line of 15.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks per game is more than enough to earn him the honour of being Hoop Diary’s all-time greatest NBA #43.