NBA legend Jerry West dies at 86

League: NBA

Posted on: 12 Jun, 2024 at 03:00 PM

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry West, a Hall of Fame player, executive and the inspiration for the silhouette NBA logo, died on Wednesday morning. He was 86.

West won nine NBA championships as a player, scout, coach, executive and consultant during a storied career that spanned eight decades. Nicknamed "Mr. Clutch," West was an All-Star during each season of his 14-year playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers, helping the club win the title in 1971-72.

West was named the MVP for the 1969 NBA Finals despite playing on a losing team. He scored 42 points in Game 7, but the Lakers fell to the rival Boston Celtics.

A 12-time All-NBA selection, West found much more success after retiring from a career on the court.

He helped the "Showtime" Lakers win five titles in the 1980s and oversaw the formation of the Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant tandem. In a rebirth of the franchise's glory days, the All-NBA duo led the Lakers to three straight titles (2000-02).

West became an adviser for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2017, and the club reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history in 2021. He was a two-time executive of the year.

"Jerry West was a basketball genius and a defining figure in our league for more than 60 years," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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."

The Clippers and team owner Steve Ballmer also issued statements.

"Today, the world has lost an icon and a national treasure, as beloved in the hollows of West Virginia as he was in the hills of Los Angeles and all points in between," the team statement said. "The Clippers have lost a mentor, a confidant, and a friend. We are simultaneously devastated and honored to have witnessed the last chapter of Jerry West's legendary career. To the end, he was a fierce competitor, a giving teammate, and a lot of fun. His passion for the game was without parallel. His wisdom, his generosity and his humor are forever sewn into the fabric of the franchise. He gave his heart to everything and everyone he touched. Our deepest condolences go out to the West family and the entire basketball community, united under one logo."

"This is a hard day. I am honored to call Jerry a confidant, an advisor and a friend," Ballmer said. "Connie, my wife, called him my 'basketball dad.' He was absolutely my basketball sage: wise, loyal and so much fun. If you were in his presence, you felt his competitiveness and his drive. He cared about everything and everyone. From the first day I met Jerry seven years ago, he inspired me with his intellect, honesty and enthusiasm. He never stopped. I spent a lot of time with him, some of the best times of my life. He always lent an ear, and he always had a quip. He always left me laughing. I will miss him."

West was the third player in NBA history to eclipse 25,000 and was part of the league's 75th anniversary team. He averaged 27.0 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds in 932 career games.

"Will truly miss our convos my dear friend!" Lakers superstar LeBron James wrote on X, formerly Twitter. "My thoughts and prayers goes out to your wonderful family! Forever love Jerry! Rest in Paradise my guy!"

A two-time All-American at West Virginia, he guided the Mountaineers to the 1959 NCAA championship game. He was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player despite West Virginia falling to California in the final.

He went into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1980 and again 30 years later as a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team.

--Field Level Media