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NBA Legend Jerry West Dies At 86

 June 13, 2024

Jerry West, the inspiration behind the NBA's logo, passed away quietly at his residence at the age of 86, with news of his passing announced by the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

West's death brings to a close a life that included monumental contributions as a player, coach, executive, and consultant over eight decades, as Yahoo Sports reports.

West's basketball journey began in West Virginia, where he was a high school and college basketball superstar. His talents were apparent early on, leading to his co-captaincy of the 1960 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team. This set the stage for an illustrious 14-season career in the NBA, all with the Los Angeles Lakers.

A Storied Career with the Lakers

During his time as a player, West achieved 12 All-NBA selections and five All-Defensive appearances. Despite numerous Finals appearances, he secured only one NBA title, falling short six times to Bill Russell's dominant Boston Celtics.

A standout moment in West's career occurred during the 1969 finals, where he became the only player to win the Finals MVP award on a losing team, thanks to his stellar performance, averaging 37.9 points per game.

One of the many highlights of his career was his unforgettable 60-foot buzzer-beater in the 1970 NBA finals. West joined elite company alongside Chamberlain and Robertson as one of the first to score over 25,000 points in the league, finishing his career with averages of 27 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Success as an Executive and Consultant

Following his playing days, West transitioned to roles where his impact was equally profound. Twice named NBA Executive of the Year, he was instrumental in constructing the five-time champion "Showtime" Lakers of the 1980s.

His strategic brilliance saw him sign Shaquille O'Neal and trade for Kobe Bryant's draft rights, moves that catalyzed the Lakers' success from 2000 to 2010, culminating in five more championship titles. West also played a vital role as an executive with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors.

Legacy Beyond the Court

West's influence transcended the basketball court. He was honored with induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and as a contributor. In recognition of his contributions, he was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, West was an advocate for mental health. His 2011 memoir detailed his personal battle with depression, shedding light on the importance of mental well-being.

The poignant quote from Chick Hearn encapsulates West's competitive spirit: "He took a loss harder than any player I’ve ever known," illustrating the depth of his passion for the game.

Impactful Messages from Peers

West's legacy was often highlighted by his peers. NBA commissioner Adam Silver remarked, "Jerry West was a basketball genius and a defining figure in our league for more than 60 years." Silver further highlighted West's status as the league's first Finals MVP, celebrating his ability to shine during crucial moments.

Hot Rod Hundley echoed this sentiment, noting West's relentless drive to win and his well-earned nickname, "Mr. Clutch."

Adding to these remembrances, Bill Russell addressed West directly during "Jerry West Night" in 1972. He said, "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."

A Lasting Symbol in Basketball

West, known to many as the face of the NBA logo, had a widespread influence on the sport. Mavericks center Daniel Gafford acknowledged this, saying, "You know, we see him every day. Just rest in peace to him, and we’ll always be in remembrance of somebody that just had so much of an impact on the basketball world."

Despite the personal challenges he faced, including a troubled childhood and the loss of his brother in the Korean War, West's resilience and commitment to the game remained steadfast.

His family, continuing his basketball legacy, includes Jerry West Jr., a professional scout for the Detroit Pistons. This demonstrates how deeply basketball runs in the West family.

Remembering a Basketball Titan

Jerry West's passing signifies the loss of one of basketball's foremost figures. His multifaceted roles over the years shaped the game in countless ways. The respect and admiration he garnered from his peers cemented his status as a true champion, not just in titles, but in the character and determination he exemplified.

To summarize, West's storied career and life will be remembered for his extraordinary contributions as a player, coach, and executive, his advocacy for mental health, and his enduring impact on basketball. His legacy as "Mr. Clutch" will inspire future generations, ensuring that his influence on the game remains timeless.