Jerry West, a legendary basketball player, passes away at the age of 86 “You deserve to be the Logo”

Jerry West
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Jerry West, among the best basketball players, Dead at 86
Jerry West, a legendary figure in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers and a literal icon of the game, emerged from West Virginia coal country to become among the best players in basketball. His is the silhouette on the National Basketball Association emblem died on Wednesday. He was eighty-six.

The Los Angeles Clippers reported his passing but omitted any other information. For the team recently, West served as a consultant.

Beginning in 1960, when the franchise relocated from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and he was its first draft choice, West played a remarkable role in the history of the N.B.A. in general and the Lakers in particular for four decades first as a player and subsequently as a coach and executive.

He was an all-star in every one of his 14 seasons and won titles with multiple generations of Laker teams and Laker stars. Except for his long-time friend, the outstanding forward Elgin Baylor, who departed without a championship, there may never have been a better player who endured the constant close-but-no-cigar annoyance that dogged West for the most of his career on the court.

June 20, 2000, the morning following Kobe Bryant’s leap into Shaquille O’ Neal’s arms, purple and gold confetti fluttered around them in honor of their first NBA title. The franchise had not flown a flag twelve years ago. Four years after West brought the two stars to L.A., at great danger. Now he could see a Lakers rebirth as reality. The entire city sparkled, glowed, was ecstatic. Everyone but the designer who made it all feasible.

I discovered West seated at his desk in his poorly lit Lakers headquarters office. He agreed to address a few questions and welcomed me in. I started with the most direct: Did you have fun tonight?

“No,” he responded squarely, “I did not. I skipped watching.

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West did not even show up. Driving about Los Angeles, he had spent the Game 6 clincher in his automobile getting regular phone updates. Seeing in person made one too anxious and too overpowering. He assured me he finally would view the entire series on tape. Citing everyone of them by name, West would claim over the next 20 minutes he “felt happy” for the fans, for Shaq and Kobe, for Phil Jackson, for owner Jerry Buss, and even for the team’s scouts (because, he added, they don’t get enough credit). He appeared, however, not at all content. I so pressed once more: What about you? Following all you have gone through, all the second-guessing, all the criticism, all the uncertainty—is there a sense of gratification?

Until that time, I knew West as a basketball mastermind, a living legend, an icon of Lakers excellence, the rare superstar player who had turned into a superstar executive, generally regarded and admired. He went as Mr. Clutch. He was the emblem, just as the real NBA emblem (despite league denials for decades). He could be passionate, scary, giving, insightful, sympathetic, gossipy, sweet, cantankerous, occasionally defensive, and strangely insecure. Still, the weight of Jerry West never really hit me until that point.

West, who passed away Wednesday at age 86, had more success than 99 percent of the executives, coaches, and players who have ever been through the NBA. Still, the part most difficult seemed to be the enjoyment component. No number of banners or free-agent coups would ever satisfy him. More loudly than he heard appreciation was condemnation. Being the Logo seemed to call for an impossible degree of perfection. It was as if all the grief he had as a player—one title versus eight losses in the Finals—left him so traumatized that he feared the worst always.

Thus, West first couldn’t bear to be around at all and then couldn’t bear to see any of the 2000 Finals in person.

Before staging one of the best careers of all time with the Los Angeles Lakers, West shined at West Virginia. Over his 14 seasons, West was an All-Star and guided the Lakers nine times to the NBA Finals.

He left at thirty-six years old. Most would find it impossible to obtain the same success in their following effort, let alone top it after such an outstanding opening act to his professional life. And yet, for 45 years West worked as an executive in the NBA.
Following a brief coaching career and some years as a scout, West was appointed general manager of the Lakers prior to the 1982–1983 campaign. His first action was drafting James Worthy and teaming him with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Later he brought in Mychal Thompson in 1987, A.C. Green in 1985, and Byron Scott in 1983. The Lakers grabbed five trophies overall during the 1980s.

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