Basketball legend Jerry West dead at 86

Agence France-Presse
Basketball legend Jerry West dead at 86
LA Clippers executive board member Jerry West attends a game between the Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets during the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 7, 2022.
Ethan Miller / Getty Images North America / AFP

LOS ANGELES – Jerry West, an iconic 1960s star guard for the Los Angeles Lakers who inspired the NBA logo, died Wednesday at age 86 (Thursday Manila time), the Los Angeles Clippers announced.

West played for the Lakers from 1960 through 1974, winning his only NBA title in 1972, and was co-captain on the 1960 Rome Olympic US basketball gold medal squad.

In later years, West served as an executive on several NBA clubs, most recently the Clippers, his knowledge and guidance contributing to eight championship runs, six by the Lakers.

"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 Clippers announced. "His wife, Karen, was by his side."

The league plans to have a pre-game tribute to West before Wednesday's third game of this year's NBA Finals.

With impressive speed and quickness and a deft shooting touch, West was nicknamed "Mr. Clutch" for his skilled shotmaking under pressure.

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

"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."

In the 1969 NBA Finals against the arch-rival Boston Celtics, he received the Most Valuable Player award even though the Celtics beat the Lakers for the title.

West was an NBA All-Star in all 14 of his league seasons and the NBA scoring champion in 1970. His jersey number, 44, was retired by the Lakers.

West was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980 and in October he will be enshrined again as a contributor for his work as an executive, becoming the first person ever inducted as both a player and a contributor.

'An indelible figure'

In 1969, the NBA created its current logo, which was the silhouette of West dribbling a basketball, an image inspired by a photograph of West taken during a game.

"He was the league's first Finals MVP and made rising to the occasion his signature quality," Silver said.

"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."

For his career, West averaged 27.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists a game.

West, who coached the Lakers from 1976 through 1979, would capture eight titles as an NBA executive, five with the Lakers in the 1980s "Showtime" era with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

He also was an executive for NBA champions with the Lakers in 2000 and Golden State in 2015 and 2017, before leaving to join the Clippers.

Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers paid tribute to West for his iconic place in LA sports, posting on social media: "The Dodgers mourn the passing of NBA Hall of Famer and Lakers legend Jerry West, an indelible figure on the Los Angeles sports landscape for more than 60 years."

In many ways, he was a lasting symbol of the NBA's early days and many of its most glorious memories.

"I valued my friendship with Jerry and the knowledge he shared with me over many years about basketball and life," Silver said.

"On behalf of the NBA, we send our deepest condolences to Jerry's wife, Karen, his family and his many friends in the NBA community."

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