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Basketball legend Jerry West dies 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. Obsessive perfectionism and a deadly jump shot made Jerry West, who died on June 12, 2024 at the age 86, one of the greatest guards in NBA history. His uncompromising will to win and encyclopedic knowledge of the game also made him one of the league’s all-time great executives. —Agence France-Presse

LOS ANGELES — Jerry West, an iconic 1960s star guard for the Los Angeles Lakers who inspired the NBA logo, died Wednesday at age 86, 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.

“I’m so deeply saddened at the news of Jerry’s passing,” fellow NBA icon Michael Jordan said in a statement. “He was truly a friend and a mentor. Like an older brother to me. I valued his friendship and knowledge.

“I always wished I could’ve played against him as a competitor, but the more I came to know him, I wish I had been his teammate. I admired his basketball insights and he and I shared many similarities to how we approached the game. He will be forever missed. Rest in peace, Logo.”

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.

Current Lakers star LeBron James, a four-time NBA champion and four-time MVP, said he will miss chats with the legend.

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

West was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980 and was enshrined again in 2010 when the entire 1960 Olympic basketball team was inducted.

In October, West will be enshrined for a third time as a contributor for his work as an executive, becoming the first person ever inducted as both a player and a contributor.

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 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.”

For his career, West averaged 27.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists a game.
‘Basketball sage’
West, who coached the Lakers from 1976-1979, would capture eight titles as an NBA executive, five with the 1980s “Showtime” Lakers, another with LA in 2000 and two with Golden State in 2015 and 2017, before joining the Clippers.

“This is a hard day,” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said in a statement.

“I’m honored to call Jerry a confidant, an advisor and a friend. 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.

“He always lent an ear and he always had a quip. He always left me laughing. I will miss him.”

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