Jerry West dies at 86: NBA legend, 14-time Lakers All-Star became 'The Logo,' eight-time champion executive (2024)

Jerry West, one of the greatest players in NBA history and a Los Angeles Lakers legend, has died at the age of 86, the Los Angeles Clippers announced. West is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history as well as almost indisputably its greatest executives. His silhouette is used as the league's logo to this day. On Wednesday, commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement on the loss of a league icon.

"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."

West was born in West Virginia in 1938, and he went on to become a college basketball star at West Virginia University. He led the Mountaineers to the National Championship Game in 1959, and earned the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award despite losing in that game. The Lakers would go on to draft him No. 2 overall in 1960, with only Olympic teammate and fellow NBA legend Oscar Robertson going ahead of him.

He and Elgin Baylor were the first great Lakers after the team's move to Los Angeles. West reached the All-Star Game in all 14 of his NBA seasons and took the Lakers to the Finals nine times. Unfortunately, West's Lakers existed at the height of the Boston Celtics dynasty led by Bill Russell. The Lakers went only 1-8 in the Finals during West's career, but he was so good that he won Finals MVP in 1969 despite losing the series.

West ultimately did earn that elusive first ring as a player in 1972. That was also the season in which he led the Lakers to a record 33 consecutive wins. That season would prove to be the high point of his NBA career, and he would retire as a player two years later in 1974. That did not, however, mean he was leaving the Lakers.

West took over as the team's coach in 1976. He went 145-101 in three seasons, but the Lakers never reached the Finals in that stretch. In 1979, however, he joined the front office as a scout, and in 1982, he became the general manager. This proved to be the defining move of his post-playing career, as West grew into a legendary executive.

The Lakers reached the NBA Finals 12 times between 1980 and West's departure in 2002. They won six championships in that span. Among West's many notable moves was the choice to draft James Worthy No. 1 overall, the hiring of Phil Jackson in 1999, and of course, perhaps the single most consequential trade in NBA history: his 1996 deal that sent Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant, which, in turn, created the cap space the Lakers would need to sign Shaquille O'Neal. That single move built the foundation of West's last three Laker champions as well as two more that followed without him.

In 2002, West decided to work for his first NBA team besides the Lakers when he became general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies. At the time, he cited a desire to build a winning franchise from the ground up after spending so much time with a marquee franchise, and sure enough, his arrival sparked the first successful stretch in Grizzlies history. The team had never reached the playoffs before West's hire. They made it three times in his five seasons in Memphis.

The Grizzlies were the last team that West directly ran as general manager, but he remained involved in front office work for the rest of his life. In 2011, he joined the Golden State Warriors as a member of their executive board and a senior front office advisor. In 2015, the Warriors won their first championship in over 40 seasons thanks in part to West's contributions. He reportedly was one of the front office figures that pushed back on the idea of trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love at the time, a decision that was by no means a consensus in basketball circles at the time, but one that helped the Warriors grow into a dynasty. In 2016, he was instrumental in recruiting Kevin Durant to the Warriors as a free agent. Durant would win two titles with the Warriors, but West was with the team for only the first of them.

His final stop in the NBA was in the city he spent most of his career in. He joined the Los Angeles Clippers in 2017 in a similar role to the one he held in Golden State, and was involved in the free agency recruitment of Kawhi Leonard. He held his title with the Clippers until his death.

West is the second NBA icon to die in the last few weeks. Another Los Angeles basketball icon, Bill Walton, died on May 27 at the age of 71. Hall of Famer Chet Walker also passed away less than a week ago, on June 8. The basketball world has endured several losses of late, and West's will be felt as deeply as any it has experienced. From his emergence as a college star in the late 1950s through his work as a consultant for the Clippers in the 2020s, West spent the better part of seven decades as an important figure within the sport of basketball. The modern NBA has practically never existed without his involvement in some capacity, but now, the league will say goodbye to one of its all-time legends.

Jerry West dies at 86: NBA legend, 14-time Lakers All-Star became 'The Logo,' eight-time champion executive (2024)
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