Basketball Legend Jerry West Dead at 86

Basketball Legend Jerry West Dead at 86

Golden State Warriors executive board member Jerry West sits on the bench by NBA logos before the game the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 31, 2015. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Todd Karpovich
Todd Karpovich

6/12/2024

Updated: 6/12/2024

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The iconic figure of Jerry West purportedly adorns the NBA logo.
Mr. West, who was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame three times for his legendary playing career and his prowess as an executive, has died at age 86 in Los Angeles. The cause of death was not disclosed.
“Jerry West was a basketball genius and a defining figure in our league for more than 60 years. 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,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote in a statement. 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,” he wrote.
Mr. West, known as Mr. Clutch, was a 14-time All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA selection, and helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the 1972 NBA championship where he was named MVP of the Finals. He was also included in the NBA’s 75th anniversary team.
Mr. West was the third player in league history to reach 25,000 points after Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. He was named an All-Star each year of his career and led Los Angeles to the NBA Finals nine times.
Mr. West, who was selected by the Lakers with the second overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft behind Robertson, ranks 25th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
The NBA has never confirmed that Mr. West is the model for its logo—a player dribbling a ball against the colors of the American flag—but it’s been widely known that he served as the inspiration.
A statue is displayed outside Staples Center for former Los Angeles player and general manager Jerry West in Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 20, 2011. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

A statue is displayed outside Staples Center for former Los Angeles player and general manager Jerry West in Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 20, 2011. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

“While it’s never been officially declared that the logo is Jerry West, it sure looks a lot like him,” Mr. Silver said in 2021.
As an executive, Mr. West built a dynasty with the Lakers, who won eight NBA titles while he served as the general manager. He was credited for drafting Magic Johnson and James Worthy, who played key roles with those championship teams. He later brought Kobe Bryant to the Lakers, who won five titles with him as the shooting guard.
“Admired him growing up in LA, revered him as a basketball man, and loved talking about players and the game with him,” former NBA players and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas posted on social media. “He was far more than ‘The Logo.’ Jerry West is imbedded [sic] into the very fabric of the game. He literally did it all. RIP Jerry West.”
Mr. West was also part of the front offices for the Memphis Grizzlies, the Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers where he worked as a consultant for the teams since 2017.
“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. His wife, Karen, was by his side,” the Clippers said in a statement.
West was born in Chelyan, West Virginia, where he began playing basketball as a child, hoisting shots at a makeshift rim on the side of the family shed. At East Bank High, he averaged 32 points and became the first high school player in state history to score more than 900 points.
Mr. West then attended West Virginia University where he became one of the greatest college basketball players.
In 1959, the Mountaineers beat Dartmouth, St. Joseph’s, Boston University, and Louisville to advance to the NCAA championship game where they lost to Pete Newell and the University of California, Berkley, 71–70.
West tied the NCAA five-game tournament record of 160 points (32.0 points per game), including his 28-point and 11-rebound performance in the championship game. He was named Most Outstanding Player of that year’s Final Four. He was later named to the U.S. Pan American Games team which won the gold medal.
Mr. West was a three-time scoring leader for the Mountaineers and earned second-team All-America honors after averaging 17.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game during his sophomore season in 1958. The next two seasons in 1959 and 1960, he earned consensus All-America honors, including a senior season where he averaged 29.3 points and 16.5 rebounds per game.
National Basket Ball Hall of Fame inductee Jerry West delivers remarks after being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on Sept. 5, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

National Basket Ball Hall of Fame inductee Jerry West delivers remarks after being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on Sept. 5, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Mr. West was inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.
“West Virginia University mourns the passing of the legendary Jerry West, an iconic figure in basketball history. Forever a Mountaineer,” the school posted on social media.
Mr. West was co-captain of the 1960 Olympic team along with Oscar Robertson, the duo leading USA to a 5–0 record and a victory over Russia to win the Gold medal at Rome.
However, Mr. West revealed that he battled depression in his memoir entitled, “West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life.”
“Will truly miss our convos my dear friend!” Laker power forward Lebron James wrote on social media. “My thoughts and prayers goes out to your wonderful family! Forever love Jerry! Rest in Paradise my guy!”
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In addition to the Epoch Times, Todd Karpovich is a freelance contributor to the Associated Press, The Sporting News, Baltimore Sun, and PressBox, among other media outlets nationwide, including the Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, and Chicago Tribune. He is the author or co-author of six non-fiction books.

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