Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Jerry West, a Legendary Basketball Player, Passes Away at the Age of 86

Jerry West, who rose from the coal belt of West Virginia to become one of the best players in basketball history, a defining character in the Lakers’ history, and a physical symbol of the game whose silhouette appears on the NBA emblem, passed away on Wednesday. He was eighty-six.

His death was declared by the Los Angeles Clippers, but no other information was given. In recent years, West served as a consultant for the group.

Jerry West, a Legendary Basketball Player, Passes Away at the Age of 86

Beginning in 1960 when the Lakers relocated from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and he was selected first in the draft, West had a significant impact on the development of the NBA in general and the franchise in particular for forty years, first as a player and then as a scout, coach, and executive.

Along with multiple generations of Laker teams and players, he won championships and was an all-star in each of his 14 seasons. However, no player may have ever experienced the constant close-but-no-cigar frustration that accompanied West on the court, with the possible exception of his longtime friend, the legendary forward Elgin Baylor, who passed away without winning a title.

When West was playing, the Boston Celtics were winning six straight championships and were at the pinnacle of their unstoppable team.

The Lakers didn’t win until they signed Wilt Chamberlain, and even then it took four seasons to get there (including a seventh-round loss to the New York Knicks in the 1970 NBA Finals).

The Golden State Warriors won 73 games in 2015–16, breaking the record set by the 1971–72 Lakers, who won 69 games in a row, including an unbroken 33-game streak. Speaking with a massive sense of relief following the last game, West recalled that his drive for the ultimate success started before he entered the professionals. They eventually exacted revenge on the Knicks and won the 1972 title. His team advanced to the national finals against California in 1959, his junior year at West Virginia University, but lost by a single point.

“I won a championship the last time I was in the twelfth grade,” West declared. “What a wonderful sensation this is. I am going to truly enjoy this summer.”

Jerry West, a Legendary Basketball Player, Passes Away at the Age of 86

West was more successful as general manager of the Lakers. He won titles in 1985, 1987, and 1988 with a squad that featured James Worthy, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

He triumphed once more in 2000 while serving as executive vice president, this time by signing Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent and acquiring Kobe Bryant in a trade.

Playing from 1960 to 1974, West was a long-armed, accurate guard who is easily considered one of the best backcourt players in NBA history. He wasn’t particularly large at either 6 feet 2 or 6 feet 3 and considerably under 200 pounds.

Despite his habit of playing through injuries, West was a swift and strong jumper with a lightning-fast right-handed release. It is said that he fractured his nose nine times.

With 31.2 points per game in the 1969–70 season, West led the NBA in scoring; in four seasons, he scored more than 30 points per game; and over the course of his career, he averaged 27 points per game in the regular season, which is the eighth-highest total in NBA history.

He was, however, much more effective during the playoffs, where he scored over thirty points per game seven times, including forty-six in 1964.

He averaged 37.9 points in the 1969 finals against the Celtics, including 42 in the game that decided the series. He also had 13 rebounds, 12 assists, and spearheaded an agonizing fourth-quarter rally that was tragically cut short by one basket. He was named the series MVP, which remains the only instance of a losing player winning MVP in the finals.

Jerry West, a Legendary Basketball Player, Passes Away at the Age of 86

Jerry Alan West, whose subsequent nickname, Zeke from Cabin Creek, came from his birthplace of Chelyan, West Virginia, on May 28, 1938. He also resided in a number of places southeast of Charleston along the Kanawha River. (With the Lakers, he was also referred to as Mr. Clutch and Mr. Outside; Elgin Baylor was Mr. Inside.)

Howard and Cecile Sue (Creasey) West had six children total, with West being the fifth. His father operated machinery for an oil firm and worked in the electrical shop of a coal mine, while his mother worked as a store clerk.

 

He was twice selected as a consensus All-American and twice named player of the year in the Southern Conference during his three years at West Virginia University. He played backcourt with Oscar Robertson for the 1960 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal.

Eleven times in his 14 professional seasons, West was selected to the all-NBA first team.

West was appointed head coach of the Lakers by owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1976.

Although Abdul-Jabbar was named the MVP of the league and West led the Lakers to the NBA’s best record of 53-29 in his debut season, they were defeated by the Portland Trail Blazers in the postseason. Los Angeles was defeated by the eventual champions, the Seattle SuperSonics, twice in two years.

Jerry West, a Legendary Basketball Player, Passes Away at the Age of 86

During his three seasons as coach, West’s win-lost record was 145-101.

He was designated general manager by Jerry Buss, who acquired the Lakers after the 1979 season, in 1982, after a campaign that saw the team win its second championship in three years under the leadership of Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar.

West played for the Memphis Grizzlies for five seasons, from 2002 to 2007, after leaving the Lakers. The Grizzlies finished 50-32 in West’s second season as head coach, the first of three straight seasons in which they made the playoffs.