NBA icon Jerry West dead at 86

NBA legend Jerry West, the man who inspired the league’s logo, passed away at the age of 86, the Los Angeles Clippers announced Wednesday.

West died peacefully at his LA home. West’s wife, Karen, was by his side when he died, the Clippers said.

“Today, the world lost an icon and a national treasure, as beloved in the hollows of West Virginia as he was in the hills of Los Angeles and all points in between. The Clippers have lost a mentor, a confidant, and a friend. We are simultaneously devastated and honored we have witnessed the last chapter of Jerry West’s legendary career. To the end, he was a fierce competitor, a giving teammate, and a lot of fun. His passion for the game was without parallel. His wisdom, his generosity and his humor are forever sewn into the fabric of the franchise. He gave his heart to everything and everyone he touched. Our deepest condolences go out to the West family and the entire basketball community, united under one Logo,” the Clippers said in a released statement.

His passing was announced in the hours before Game 3 of the 2024 NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics.

West’s legacy spans decades as a player and executive, perhaps best known for his remarkable work with the Lakers.

The West Virginia native played for 14 seasons from 1960-1974 for the Men in Purple and Gold. After he retired as a player, he remained with the franchise for another three decades as a coach, general manager, and other positions in the front office.

GettyImages-1483744226-e1718200705459.jpg

Jerry West attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns at Crypto.com Arena on April 20, 2023. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Despite the Lakers losing the 1969 NBA Finals to their rivals, the Boston Celtics, West was still awarded Finals MVP.

As a legendary Laker, he won a championship as a player in 1972 and went on to win six more titles with the franchise in an advisory role.

GettyImages-1161297852.jpg

Pat Riley of the Miami Heat (L) talks with executive board member Jerry West of the LA Clippers (R) during the 2019 Summer League. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

West helped build the “Showtime” dynasty, headlined by stars such as Earvin “Magic” Johnson, James Worthy, and the latter part of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career.

With an impeccable eye for talent, West had a crucial role in selecting Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft.

GettyImages-79694399-e1718211149888.jpg

Jerry West, GM, Kobe Bryant and Head Coach Del Harris (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)

While some have called for an updated NBA logo, it was West’s silhouette that inspired the current one.

jerry-west-NBA-logo.jpg

(Getty Images, NBA)

As a trailblazing contributor, he won two more championships during his time in the Golden State Warriors’ front office. In 2017, at the peak of the Warriors’ dynasty, he left the Bay Area to take on a consulting role with the Clippers.

Before returning to California, he worked in the front office for the Memphis Grizzlies.

JerryWest.jpg

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. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Known as “Mr. Clutch,” he was a 14-time All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA selection, and was selected as part of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team.

West has been selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame three times. He was inducted as a player in 1980, as a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team, and will be enshrined this fall as a contributor.

West will become the first member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame to be inducted as both a player and a contributor.

“This is a hard day. I am 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. 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,” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said.

Known as a legend on and off the court, West was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.

GettyImages-1172591125-e1718211200864.jpg

Former President Donald Trump (R) gives the Presidential Medal of Freedom to National Basket Ball Hall of Fame inductee Jerry West during a ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House September 05, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevill

West is one of the sports legends honored with a statue outside the Crypto.com Arena, once known as Staples Center, in downtown LA.

GettyImages-854832812-1.jpg

Jerry West statue. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

“Jerry West was a basketball genius and a defining figure in our league for more than 60 years. 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. He was the league’s first Finals MVP and made rising to the occasion his signature quality, earning him the nickname ‘Mr.Clutch,’” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in part in a released statement.

The statement continued to read, “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.  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.”

“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,” Silver concluded.

One of the last times West was photographed was when Silver announced the Clippers would host the 2026 NBA All-Star Game at their new home, the Intuit Dome in Inglewood.

SUGGESTED: Los Angeles to host 2026 NBA All-Star weekend at Clippers’ new arena in Inglewood

GettyImages-1930884220.jpg

Jerry West at the announcement by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer that the 2026 NBA All-Star Game will be held at the team’s new Inglewood arena, the Intuit Dome. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

West is survived by his wife, Karen, and five children.

snapshot-2024-06-12T092919.018.jpg

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment