Jerry West: One Of The Most Influential People The Game of Basketball Has Seen

On Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Clippers announced that three-time Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West passed away at the age of 86 years, with his wife by his side.  West earned 12 All-NBA selections and was a member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th-anniversary teams

“Jerry West, the personification of basketball excellence and a friend to all who knew him, passed away peacefully this morning at the age of 86,” according to a statement by the Clippers. “His wife, Karen, was by his side.”

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 14 years. He was named an NBA All-Star every season after being recognized as an all-American at West Virginia.

In nine NBA Finals appearances, he only won one title and lost six series to Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics, and the only time a member of the losing team has been awarded the Finals MVP award was by West in 1969.  In a seven-game loss to the Celtics, his average points per game was 37.9.

“He took a loss harder than any player I’ve ever known,” late and legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn said of West. “He would sit by himself and stare into space. A loss just ripped his guts out.”

“The greatest honor a man can have is the respect and friendship of his peers. You have that more than any man I know,” Russell told The Forum crowd on “Jerry West Night” in 1972. “Jerry, you are, in every sense of the word, truly a champion. If I could have one wish granted, it would be that you would always be happy.”

When news broke, Michael Jordan reached out to Stephen A. Smith on First Take via text to delivers his condolences to the West family.

“I valued his friendship and knowledge,” Jordan said. “I always wished I could have played against him as a competitor, but the more I came to know him, I wish I had been his teammate. I admired his basketball insights and he and I shared many similarities to how we approached the game.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver added, “Jerry West was a basketball genius and a defining figure in our league for more than 60 years.  He distinguished himself not only as an NBA champion and an All-Star in all 14 of his playing seasons, but also as a consummate competitor who embraced the biggest moments.  He was the league’s first Finals MVP and made rising to the occasion his signature quality, earning him the nickname ‘Mr. Clutch’.”

“Jerry’s four decades with the Lakers also included a successful stint as a head coach and a remarkable run in the front office that cemented his reputation as one of the greatest executives in sports history.  He helped build eight championship teams during his tenure in the NBA – a legacy of achievement that mirrors his on-court excellence.  And he will be enshrined this October into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor, becoming the first person ever inducted as both a player and a contributor.

“I valued my friendship with Jerry and the knowledge he shared with me over many years about basketball and life.  On behalf of the NBA, we send our deepest condolences to Jerry’s wife, Karen, his family and his many friends in the NBA community.”

Jerry West is Arguably The Best Executive In Sports History

West’s dedication to perfection resulted in his unrivaled success as a decision-maker in NBA front offices, which ultimately led him to win Executive of the Year honors twice. His work as a scout and GM resulted in the construction of the five-time champion ‘Showtime’ Lakers in the 1980s. He would also drafted James Worthy, with the number one pick in the 1982 draft. Worthy was responsible for leading the Lakers to seven NBA Finals appearances and championships in 1985, 1987, and 1988.

West would later establish the foundation for another five titles from 2000 to 2010 by signing Shaquille O’Neal and trading for Kobe Bryant’s draft rights before leaving the Lakers in 2000.

West was responsible for running the Memphis Grizzlies for five seasons before retiring in 2007 at the age of 69. During his time with the Grizzles sent All-Star Pau Gasol to the Lakers in the course of the 2007-2008 season. Trade helped the Lakers go to three straight NBA Finals with them winning two out of three.

As an executive board member for the Golden State Warriors in 2011. Per, West pushes the Warriors front office to draft Klay Thompson with the 11th overall pick in June 2011. The following season, would draft Draymond Green in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. 

He was known for opposing a possible trade of Klay Thompson for Kevin Love and recruiting Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason. After the Warriors’ second championship in 2017, West departed and joined the Los Angeles Clippers.

Jerry West Was A Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

In 2019, former President Donald Trump presented with The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“The Great Jerry West will be receiving our Nation’s highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his outstanding career, both on and off the court. Happy Birthday Jerry!”

West was also a New York Times Best Selling Author West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life” by Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman.

“There were two, three times when we started this, when I said, ‘I’m not doing this,” West said in an interview with the New York Times. 

“It’s true. It’s not made up. I’m hoping the book will be inspirational because you can overcome a lot of things in life and do something that makes you feel good — for a moment, maybe not for a whole long time.”

As we say goodbye to Jerry West, we acknowledge a legend whose influence went beyond the basketball court. Excellence, resilience, and dedication were all qualities that West epitomized in his life and career. His remarkable transition from a talented player to a visionary executive left a lasting legacy on the NBA.

Jerry West’s silhouette will always be present on the NBA logo, a fitting tribute to a man who represented the spirit of the game. His relentless pursuit of greatness as a player, coach, and executive set a standard for all who follow. West’s legacy is unsurpassed because he was the first Finals MVP and helped lead multiple championship teams. The league became what it is today due to his strategic genius in building dynasties.

Jerry West’s love for the game and unwavering integrity earned him respect and admiration from both peers and fans beyond his professional achievements. The friendships he formed with other legends like Bill Russell and Michael Jordan are a testament to his character and the lasting impact he had on those around him.

As we remember Jerry West, we celebrate a life well-lived and a career that will continue to inspire future generations. For decades to come, he will be remembered for his contributions to basketball and his example of excellence. Rest in peace, Jerry West. Basketball fans everywhere will always have a place in their hearts for your legacy.

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