Jerry West: NBA Legend, 'Mr. Clutch,' and 'The Logo,' Dead at 86

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

I moved to Los Angeles as a tot from a Northwest state that lacked any professional teams to root for. My dad took me to see the Dodgers a couple of times, and I watched Sandy Kofax pitch one of his no-hitters. I quickly became a Dodgers and Lakers fan. 

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Fifty-four years ago, I was in my first car, a second-hand beat-up Toyota Corolla, listening to the Lakers versus Knicks. Chick Hearn was doing the call. It was the NBA finals, game 3. With just seconds left, Jerry West took the inbound and dribbled to mid-court. "West throws it up — he makes it!" Back then, there was no 3-point shot, so it only tied the game. That shot tied the game, and I almost ran off the road. I remember that call even today. 

When I was growing up, I was a fanatical Lakers fan. I don’t know why, considering that basketball was about the only sport I didn’t play competitively. Boy, I loved the Lakers, and Jerry West was my favorite Laker. “Mr Clutch.” 

The native of West Virginia wasn’t just a player; he had an amazing sense of the game. He was a general manager and a coach after he retired. He was a mentor to countless basketball players. 

ESPN wrote

Jerry West, who was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame three times in a storied career as a player and executive and whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning at the age of 86, the LA Clippers announced.

West was the third player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points, was an All-Star every year of his career and led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals nine times, winning one title in 1971-72. He was also a 12-time All-NBA selection, an NBA Finals MVP as part of a losing team in 1969 and part of the NBA's 75th anniversary team.

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He was the guy who saw greatness in a teenager named Kobe Bryant. West knew Bryant would be a transcendent player. West worked his magic to get Kobe to the Lakers. West didn’t stay with the Lakers as an executive and was last working with the cross-town rival, the LA Clippers.

He was also an incredible golfer. West was shooting in the 70s while approaching 80 years of age. He once posted a 63 at Bel Aire Country Club.

Jerry West was, reportedly, the model for the NBA logo and, was called “The Logo” after his playing days were over. He was such a competitor, even after his playing days were long behind him, that he couldn't watch games from the stands or the executive box. He would walk to a secluded spot and listen to the crowd. He couldn't stand to see his team lose. I am not aware of anyone in or out of the game who didn’t respect and love Jerry West. I wrote about the passing of Bill Walton last month, but the death of Jerry West hit me even harder. Death is inevitable, and one is generally measured in death what one did in life. West's life was as full and impactful as anyone who played a professional sport. 

What did West “mean” to the NBA? I am not sure that the NBA would look the same but for Jerry West. The seems apt

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He is 25th on the NBA career scoring list, and while the NBA has never confirmed that West was in fact the model for its logo -- a player dribbling a ball, set against a red-and-blue background -- the league has never said otherwise either.

"While it's never been officially declared that the logo is Jerry West," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in 2021, "it sure looks a lot like him."

It sure does. 

Jerry West, dead at the age of 86 

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