Jerry West, Hall of Fame Lakers player and executive, dies at 86

West was the first NBA Finals MVP in 1969.

June 12, 2024, 11:35 AM

Hall of Fame NBA player and executive Jerry West -- who won eight NBA titles as a member of the front office for the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors -- died Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Clippers.

West, known as "The Logo" due to his silhouette being used as the NBA logo, was 86 years old.

West, whose teams often came up short against Bill Russell and the Celtics in the '60s, finally won his only title as a player with the Lakers in 1972. Though his teams often came up short for the title, West won the NBA Finals MVP in 1969 -- the first award ever given -- despite losing the series.

PHOTO: Jerry West #44 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball up court
Jerry West #44 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball up court against the Baltimore Bullets during an NBA basketball game circa 1972 at the Baltimore Civic Center in Baltimore, Maryland. West played for the Lakers from 1960-74.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“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 announced in a statement.

West had been an executive with the Clippers since 2017. He made his name as an executive with the Los Angeles Lakers, though.

He served as executive during the run of the Showtime Lakers, led by Magic Johnson, during the 1980s. The team won five championships during the decade (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988).

"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," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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.

Born in West Virginia in 1938, he also earned the nickname "Zeke from Cabin Creek" for his humble upbringing. He stayed home to attend West Virginia University, and led his squad to the NCAA title game in 1959. The team came up short against California, but West won the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player anyway -- a foreshadowing of his 1969 NBA Finals MVP.

He also would lead Team USA, alongside fellow future Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, to the gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics.

The 6-foot-3 combo guard was drafted No. 2 overall in the 1960 NBA draft -- behind Robertson -- by the then-Minneapolis Lakers. He was named to the All-Star Game in all 14 years he played in the league -- all for the Lakers -- and averaged 27 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game over his career. He amped that up with 29.1 points per game in the playoffs over his career.

He briefly served as Lakers head coach after his retirement as a player, but really found his calling in the front office.

After building a dynasty in the '80s, he did it again in the '90s by drafting high schooler Kobe Bryant in 1996 and signing Shaquille O'Neal away from the Orlando Magic in the same season.

He also served as an executive with the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors,

West was portrayed by actor Jason Clarke in the recent HBO series "Winning Time," about the 1980s Lakers. West took issue with his portrayal as someone who routinely lost his temper and unleashed strings of profanities. West asked for a retraction from producers at the time.

"The portrayal of NBA icon and L.A. Lakers legend Jerry West in 'Winning Time' is fiction pretending to be fact -- a deliberately false characterization that has caused great distress to Jerry and his family," Skip Miller, West's lawyer, said in April 2022. "Contrary to the baseless portrayal in the HBO series, Jerry had nothing but love for and harmony with the Lakers organization, and in particular owner Dr. Jerry Buss, during an era in which he assembled one of the greatest teams in NBA history."

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