The Seattle SuperSonics made the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons in 1978 and 1979. The Washington Bullets barely subdued the northwest squad in ’78 with a nail-biting Game 7 victory. However, in 1979, the sonic boom couldn’t be silenced and Seattle washed over the Bullets in a 4-1 series victory. The maturation of guards Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson helped push Seattle over the top against an aging Bullets team. So, too, did the development of Jack Sikma who replaced Marvin Webster as Seattle’s center.
In the 1978 Finals, Sikma was just a rookie and only received 32 minutes a night compared to Webster’s 42. In 1979, Sikma garnered 44 minutes of playing time a game. Predictably, his numbers rose from 14 points, 8 rebounds, and one block a game to 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks a game.
Over the next decade, Sikma wouldn’t relinquish that level of play. Through 1988, Sikma would average 17 points and 11 rebounds a game and would appear on seven all-star teams. The Sonics, and later on the Milwaukee Bucks, would make him a cornerstone of their teams.
The Sonics and Bucks made a wise choice considering just how versatile Sikma was. Easily discerned from his rebounding average, Sikma was a powerful force on the boards, particularly on the defensive end. His defensive rebound percentage is the 12th highest in NBA history at 24.8%. That means for every four defensive rebounds available Sikma was gonna grab one of them. That’s insanely high and it meant that opponents often only got one good shot against the Sonics and Bucks when Jack was on the court, since he’d prevent second-chance points off of offensive rebounds.
On the offensive end, Sikma was one of the great centers to put a lofty soft touch on his jumper. Using an unusual overhead shot, Sikma was able to time and again fool defenders with a deceptive pump fake. In the post, that pump fake was coupled with exquisite footwork that would allow Jack to twirl and spin toward to the hoop unimpeded, since his defender was completely out of position.
As his career wound down to an end, Sikma would extend his jumper’s range to the three-point line and beyond. Over the last three seasons of his career, Sikma would connect on 35.6% of this three-point attempts. And over all these years, Jack was hitting the nail on the head when it came to free throws. After starting off with a career-worst 77.7% in his rookie season, he worked his way up to a 92.2% average in 1988 which was good enough to lead the entire NBA.
(Also, don’t discount Sikma’s super passing. He’s 10th all-time amongst centers in assists per game average. The man was an all-around basketball stud.)
Sikma was a huge success during his own playing days, but one suspects that if he happened to come along in the current era of basketball, his talents would have been better utilized. The thing is though, the current era wouldn’t exist in the first place without a pioneer like Jack Sikma. He showed us that a big man can control the glass with authority while also putting on an offensive show with gossamer shooting.
Seasons Played: 1978 – 1991
All-Defensive 2nd Team (1982)
7x All-Star (1979-’85)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1978)
NBA – 1107 Games
15.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 46.4% FG, 32.8% 3PT, 84.9% FT
FT% Leader (1988)
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1978 – 1991)
12th Points, 14th FGs Made
5th FTs Made, 10th FT%,
19th 3PTs Made, 14th 3PT%
3rd Rebounds, 11th RPG
15th Blocks, 26th BPG
19th Steals, 23rd Assists
2nd Games Played, 3rd Minutes Played