Jerry West attends the 2022 Harold and Carole Pump Foundation Gala at The Beverly Hilton on August 19, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Jerry West, the first significant player in Los Angeles basketball history whose all-around skills took him to the Hall of Fame and whose success in basketball management made him the measurement for general managers, has passed away at the age of 86.

Known by the honorable title “Mr. Clutch,” West’s contributions to the NBA, both on the court and in the front office, are unparalleled.

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A Life Dedicated to Basketball

West’s NBA journey began in 1960 when he was drafted second overall by the Lakers, just as the franchise moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.

His playing career spanned 14 years, during which he was an All-Star 14 times and made All-NBA a dozen times.

Averaging 27 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.7 assists for his career, West retired in 1974 as the Lakers’ franchise leader in scoring with 25,192 points.

His defensive prowess was equally impressive, being named to the All-Defensive Teams five times in the last five years of his career.

Jerry West’s legendary status was cemented with two signature moments: being named the first and only player on the losing team to earn MVP honors for the NBA Finals in 1969, and his famous 60-foot half-court heave in the 1970 Finals.

His autobiography, “West by West,” poignantly describes the scars left by these losses, reflecting his deep competitive nature and relentless pursuit of perfection.

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An Unmatched Executive Career

Transitioning to a front office role, West’s impact on the NBA only grew.

As the general manager of the Lakers, he orchestrated the Showtime era, leading the team to five championships in the 1980s.

His greatest executive move came in the summer of 1996, when he signed Shaquille O’Neal and traded for Kobe Bryant, sparking a new Lakers dynasty that won three consecutive titles.

West’s executive genius wasn’t confined to Los Angeles.

As GM of the Memphis Grizzlies, he won his second Executive of the Year award for turning the team into a respectable playoff contender.

Later, as a consultant for the Golden State Warriors, he played a crucial role in their rise to three championships in four years.

His decision to retain Klay Thompson instead of trading for Kevin Love is often cited as a key move in the Warriors’ dynasty.

In 2017, West joined the LA Clippers, helping to bring in stars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

His influence on the game spanned generations, from old fans who remembered his playing days to younger fans who admired his team-building prowess.

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Tributes to a Legend

West was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019, recognizing his vast contributions to basketball and his influence beyond the court.

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement: “I valued my friendship with Jerry and the knowledge he shared with me over many years about basketball and life. 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.”

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer shared heartfelt memories: “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. I spent a lot of time with him, some of the best times of my life. He always lent an ear, and he always had a quip. He always left me laughing. I will miss him.”

LeBron James took to social media to pay tribute to Jerry.

A Lasting Legacy

West’s impact on the NBA is immeasurable.

As a player, he was a scoring machine and defensive stalwart.

As an executive, he built dynasties and transformed teams.

His perfectionism drove him to excellence, setting a standard few could match.

The NBA has lost a giant, but Jerry West’s legacy will endure, inspiring future generations of players and executives alike.

My condolences and prayers to the West family.

Source: NBA

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