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NBA legend Jerry West dead at 86

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Jerry West was more than just a Basketball Hall of Fame player – he embodied the NBA, literally, when he was the inspiration for the silhouette in the league’s logo.

West spent his entire playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a champion with them in 1972, won the NBA Finals MVP despite not winning the title in 1969 and was a 14-time All-Star.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Clippers announced West – who had turned into a legendary front office executive in his post-playing career – had died. He was 86.

“Jerry West, the personification of basketball excellence and a friend to all who knew him, passed away peacefully this morning at the age of 86,” the team said. “His wife, Karen, was by his side.”

West wrapped up his playing career averaging 27 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. Among retired players, only Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor had higher averages. West averaged 29.1 points per game in the playoffs – only Jordan had a higher average.

He retired following the 1973-74 season and became the head coach of the Lakers two years later. He was 145-101 in his coaching career but never won a title on the bench.

He moved to the scouting department in 1979 and then became general manager of the team at the start of the 1982-83 season. He was credited with building the Showtime Lakers of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy with Pat Riley roaming the sidelines.

Jerry West with the Warriors

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His front office genius did not stop there, as he was responsible for making a draft day trade with the Charlotte Hornets to acquire Kobe Bryant and lure Shaquille O’Neal away from the Orlando Magic to sign with them. Both acquisitions happened in 1996. The team won three titles.

Jerry West vs Bulls
Wilson basketball

West tried his hand at rebuilding the Memphis Grizzlies from 2002-2007. Pau Gasol emerged as the star player of that team. However, after West was gone, Gasol was traded to the Lakers and helped Bryant and the franchise win another championship.

In 2011, West became an executive board member with the Golden State Warriors. The team won its first championship in 2015 to kick-start a dynasty led by Stephen Curry and later Kevin Durant. He joined the Los Angeles Clippers in 2017, building the team into a perennial contender.

Then-President Trump gave West the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.

Donald Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jerry West

West will be remembered as perhaps the player who helped put the NBA on the map. His legacy on the basketball court and in the front office will be remembered forever.

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