Who was Jerry West? 14-year NBA career, GM great and inspiration for the NBA logo

February 20, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; NBA great Jerry West is honored for being selected to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team during halftime in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
February 20, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; NBA great Jerry West is honored for being selected to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team during halftime in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The basketball world is in mourning as it bid farewell to the legendary Jerry West, a member of the esteemed Basketball Hall of Fame. He passed away at the age of 86, as confirmed by the LA Clippers.

During his illustrious career in the NBA, Jerry West left an indelible mark on the game. He became the third player to reach 25,000 points, a testament to his scoring prowess. His contributions were instrumental in the Los Angeles Lakers' journey to the NBA Finals nine times, culminating in a championship win in 1971-72.

"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 stated in a social media post.

West became an advisor for the Clippers in 2017 and was a pivotal aspect of the team that reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in 2021.

Jerry West was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1980 and then again as a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team in 2010. He was also inducted for a third time in 2024, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver calling him "one of the greatest executives in sports history."

Jerry West's NBA career

Jerry West, a player with a 14-year professional career, all with the Los Angeles Lakers, was considered a true leader. He was the third player in history to score 25,000 points, following in the footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. Known as 'Mr. Clutch' for his ability to shine in late-game situations, West was an All-Star every year of his career. His leadership was instrumental in leading the Lakers to the NBA Finals nine times, culminating in a championship win in 1971-72.

Beyond the NBA, West also earned a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics, further cementing his status as a basketball legend.

Jerry West's NBA career stats

Throughout his 14-year NBA career, Jerry West amassed an impressive array of individual accolades. He averaged 27 points and 6.7 assists in 932 games played from 1961 to 1974, scoring a total of 25,192 points with the Lakers.

His exceptional skills were recognized with 14 NBA All-Star selections and 10 All-NBA First Team honors. West's defensive prowess was also evident, earning him four NBA All-Defensive First Team nods. His impact on the game was further solidified with the 1969 NBA Finals MVP and the 1972 NBA Championship.

Jerry West inspired the NBA logo

Jerry West was known for his ability to make crucial plays and was nicknamed "Mr. Clutch" and "The Logo." One of his most famous moments was his buzzer-beater to tie Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks, considered one of the greatest plays in sports history. The Knicks went on to win the championship.

It has never been confirmed that the official NBA Logo is a silhouette of Jerry West, but in 2021, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated, "It sure looks a lot like him."

Jerry West's time as a General Manager

Jerry West, a key architect of the Los Angeles Lakers' success, served as the general manager for eight NBA championship teams. His influence was instrumental in building the iconic rise of the Lakers' dynasty. His strategic acumen was not limited to the Lakers, as he also held positions in the front offices of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Golden State Warriors, and the LA Clippers.

Notable highlights of his tenure as an executive with the Lakers include his game-changing decisions of drafting Magic Johnson and James Worthy, as well as his impactful moves of acquiring Kobe Bryant and later bringing in Shaquille O'Neal to join the Lakers.

Jerry West's college career

During his time at West Virginia, Jerry West not only excelled individually but also demonstrated his leadership prowess. He led the Mountaineers to the NCAA Finals and was honored with the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award in 1959.

His senior season in 1960 was nothing short of remarkable as he was a unanimous First Team All-American and guided West Virginia to its third consecutive conference championship. West was inducted in the West Virginia sports hall of fame in 1991 and is considered to be one of the most famous athletes to ever wear the Mountaineers jersey.

Jerry West's personal life

In 1960, in Morgantown, West Virginia, Jerry West married his college sweetheart Martha Jane Kane. They had three sons before divorcing in 1976.

In 1978, West married his second wife, Karen Bua, and they had two sons. One of their sons followed in his father's footsteps and played basketball at West Virginia. Karen West was by his side when he passed away at the age of 86.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who was Jerry West? Career, stats, history and legacy of NBA icon

Advertisement