July 21st, 2024

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the inspiration for the NBA logo, dies at 86

By Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press on June 12, 2024.

Jerry West, who was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame three times in a storied career as a player and executive, and whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Clippers announced.

He was 86.

West, nicknamed “Mr. Clutch” for his late-game exploits as a player, was an NBA champion who went into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1980 and again as a member of the gold medal-winning 1960 U.S. Olympic Team in 2010. He will be enshrined for a third time later this year as a contributor.

West was “the personification of basketball excellence and a friend to all who knew him,” the Clippers said in announcing his death. West’s wife, Karen, was by his side when he died, the Clippers said. West worked for the Clippers as a consultant for the last seven years.

He was an All-Star in all 14 of his NBA seasons, a 12-time All-NBA selection, part of the 1972 Lakers team that won a championship, an NBA Finals MVP as part of a losing team in 1969 and was selected as part of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team.

West was general manager of eight NBA championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers, helping build the “Showtime” dynasty. He also worked in the front offices of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Golden State Warriors and the Clippers. Among his many, many highlights as an executive with the Lakers: he drafted Magic Johnson and James Worthy, then brought in Kobe Bryant and eventually Shaquille O’Neal to play alongside Bryant.

Even in the final years of his life, West was considered basketball royalty. He routinely sat courtside at Summer League games in Las Vegas, often watching many games in a day while greeting long lines of players – LeBron James among them – who would approach to shake his hand and pay him respect.

“The game transcends many things,” West said while attending Summer League last year. “The players change, the style of play may change, but the respect that you learn in this game never changes.”

He’s 25th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, and while the league has never confirmed that West was in fact the model for its logo – a player dribbling a ball, set against a red-and-blue background – the league has never said otherwise, either.

“While it’s never been officially declared that the logo is Jerry West,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in 2021, “it sure looks a lot like him.”

Tributes from across the sports world started quickly after the announcement of West’s death. The Los Angeles Dodgers released a statement calling West “an indelible figure on the Los Angeles sports landscape for more than 60 years,” and the NBA was planning a pregame tribute to West before Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.

“Jerry West is one of my favorite people that I had the honor to get to know in the NBA,” Miami Heat managing general partner Micky Arison said Wednesday. “He welcomed me to the league, offered advice from the first day, and asked nothing in return. He will be missed.”

A native of Chelyan, West Virginia, West was known as a tenacious player who was rarely satisfied with his performance. He grew up shooting at a basket nailed to the side of a shed and often shot until his fingers bled. He became the first high school player in state history to score more than 900 points in a season, averaging 32.2 points in leading East Bank High to a state title.

Basketball, he would later reveal, was his therapy.

In his memoir, “West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life,” West chronicled a lifelong battle with depression. He wrote that his childhood was devoid of love and filled with anger as a result of an abusive father. He often felt worthless, and to combat that, he said he put his energy into playing the game.

West led West Virginia University – where he is still the all-time leader in scoring average – to the NCAA final in 1959, when the Mountaineers lost by one point to California.

West won gold at the 1960 Summer Olympics and the following year joined the Lakers, where he spent his entire pro playing career. He was honored as one of the league’s 50 greatest players in 1996 and when the league expanded the polling to 75 players to commemorate its 75th anniversary, West was selected again.

“Success without a personal satisfaction or sacrifice isn’t success at all,” West said during a 2006 speech at a West Virginia commencement. “It’s posturing. Money is a means of power, but seldom a measure of success.”

Share this story:

19
-18
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments