Jerry West: Wikis


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Jerry West
West on February 1, 2010
Position(s) Guard
Jersey #(s) 44
Listed height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Listed weight 175 lb (79 kg)
Born May 28, 1938 (1938-05-28) (age 71)
Chelyan, West Virginia
Career information
Year(s) 1960–1974
NBA Draft 1960 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2

Selected by Los Angeles Lakers

College West Virginia
Professional team(s)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (1960–1974)
Career stats (NBA)
Points     25,192
Rebounds     5,366
Assists     6,238
Stats @
Career highlights and awards
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
  • Los Angeles Lakers (1976–1979)
Medal record
Competitor for  United States
Men's Basketball
Olympic Games
Gold 1960 Rome Team Competition

Jerry Alan West (born May 28, 1938) is a retired American basketball player who played his entire professional career for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). His nicknames include "Mr. Clutch" for his ability to make a big play in a clutch situation; "The Logo" in reference to his silhouette being incorporated into the NBA logo; and "Zeke from Cabin Creek" after the creek near his birthplace of Chelyan, West Virginia. Playing the small forward position early in his career, West was a standout at East Bank High School and at West Virginia University, leading the WVU Mountaineers to the 1959 NCAA championship game, earning Most Valuable Player honors despite the loss. He then embarked on a 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and was the co-captain of the 1960 U.S. Olympic gold medal team in Rome.

West’s NBA career was highly successful. Playing the guard position as a professional, he was voted 12 times into the All-NBA First and Second Teams, was elected into the NBA All-Star Team 14  times, and was chosen as the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star game in 1972, the same year that he won his single NBA championship ring. He is the all-time NBA record holder of points-averaged during a playoffs series (46.3) and, as a testament to his two-way play, a member of the first four NBA All-Defensive Teams which were introduced when he was 32 years old. Having played in nine NBA Finals, he is also the only player in NBA history to have won the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award despite being on the losing team (1969). West was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980 and voted as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996.

After his playing career, West was head coach of the Lakers for three years, leading Los Angeles into the playoffs each year and earning a Western Conference Finals berth once. Working as a player-scout for three years, West was named General Manager of the Lakers prior to the 1982–83 NBA season. Under his reign, Los Angeles won seven championship rings. In 2002, West became general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies and helped the franchise win their first-ever playoff berths. For his contributions, West won the NBA Executive of the Year Award twice, once as a Lakers manager (1995) and then as a Grizzlies manager (2004). West's son, Jonnie, is currently a junior for the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball squad.


Early life

Jerry Alan West was born into a poor household in Cheylan, West Virginia.[1] West was a shy, introverted boy, who grew up in a poor family and whose father was so drained after work that he could not play with his children. He was so small and frail that he needed vitamin injections from his doctor and was kept apart from children's sports, to prevent him from getting seriously hurt.[2] Growing up, his main distraction was shooting at a basketball hoop that a neighbor had nailed to his storage shed. West spent years shooting baskets from every possible angle, ignoring mud in the backyard, his mother's lashes when he came home hours late for dinner, and playing with gloves when the ground was covered with snow.[1]


High School

West attended East Bank, West Virginia, High School from 1952–56. During his first year, he was mostly benched by his coach Duke Shaver due to his lack of height. However, Shaver emphasized the importance of conditioning and defense, lessons which the teenager appreciated.[2] Soon, West became the captain of the freshman team and, during the summer of 1953, he grew to 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m), a very welcomed growth spurt.[1]

Eventually becoming the team's starting small forward, West quickly established himself as one of the finest West Virginian high school players of his generation. He was named All-State from 1953–56 and then All-American in 1956 when he was named West Virginia Player of the Year, becoming the state's first high-school player to score more than 900 points in a season, averaging 32.2 points per game. West's midrange jump shot became his trademark and he often used it to hit high-pressure baskets.[1] West led East Bank to a state championship on March 24 that year, prompting East Bank High School to change its name to "West Bank High School" every year on March 24 in honor of their basketball prodigy, until its closure in 1999.[3]

West Virginia Mountaineers

More than 60 universities showed interest in West. He chose West Virginia University, which is located in Morgantown, West Virginia.[4] In his freshman year (1956–57), West was a member of the WVU freshman squad which won a flawless 17–0 record over the entire season.[4] In his first varsity year under head coach Fred Schaus, West scored 17.8 points per game and averaged 11.1 rebounds; he started in all 28 games, while shooting 49.6% from the field and 73.2% from the free throw line.[5] These performances earned him a multitude of honors, among them an All-American Third Team call-up; First Team All-Southern Conference; Southern Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player Award and First Team honors; Chuck Taylor-Converse Second-team All-American honors; and Associated Press and United Press International Third-team All-American honors.[6] The Mountaineers went 26–2 that year, ending the season with an 89–84 loss to Manhattan College in post-season, tournament play.[7]

The next season 1958–59 was even more successful. West scored 26.6 points per game and grabbed 12.3 rebounds.[5] He tied the NCAA five-game tournament record of 160 points (32.0 points per game) and led all scorers and rebounders in every West Virginia game, including getting 28 points and 11 rebounds in a 71–70 loss to California in the final. West was named Most Outstanding Player of that year's Final Four.[3] He was named also All-American; Southern Conference Player and Athlete of the Year; Southern Conference Tournament MVP and Southern Conference Player of the Year and Athlete of the Year.[6] Later, he was named to be a member of the U.S. Pan American Games basketball team which won the gold medal.[1]

As a testament to his toughness, West once had his nose broken against Kentucky. Despite intense pain and only capable of breathing though his mouth, he scored 19 second-half points and led WVU to an upset win over the Kentucky "Wildcats".[3]

In West's final collegiate season (the 1959–60 season) West averaged several career highs, such as scoring 29.3 points per game, a 134 season-assists, 16.5 rebounds per game, and a shooting average of 50.4% from the field, 76.6% from the free throw line.[5] He was honored again with several awards: a call-up to the All-American selection, and voted Southern Conference MVP.[6] West's best performance was a 40-point, 16-rebound game against Virginia. Moreover, during that final year, he scored 30 double-doubles and fifteen 30-point games.[8] For a WVU "Mountaineer" career, West totaled 2,309 points and 1,240 rebounds. He averaged 24.8 points per game and 13.3 rebounds.[5] West currently holds 12 WVU all-time records.[9]

Along with Oscar Robertson, West co-captained the U.S. men's basketball team at the 1960 Summer Olympics which won the gold medal.[1]

Los Angeles Lakers

"Mr. Inside" and "Mr. Outside"

West then made himself available for the 1960 NBA Draft, and was drafted with the 2nd overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, which were a relocated franchise in 1960. West became the first draft pick ever of the relocated franchise[10] (the Minneapolis Lakers had relocated because owner Bob Short wanted to move to California). Ironically, his college coach was hired to the coach the Lakers. He played West as a guard, in contrast to West's college days as a forward.[1] The Lakers were captained by Hall-of-Fame forward Elgin Baylor, who was complemented by centers Jim Krebs and Ray Felix; forwards Rudy LaRusso and Tom Hawkins; and guards Rod Hundley (from West Virgina, like West), Frank Selvy, and Bob Leonard.[11] This team perennially had strong forwards and guards, but was constantly weak at center, giving them a disadvantage against the Boston Celtics with their Hall-of-Fame center, Bill Russell.[12]

Initially, West felt odd in his new environment&mdash. He was a loner. His high-pitched voice earned him the nickname "Tweety Bird", and he spoke with such a thick Appalachian accent that his teammates also referred to him as "Zeke from Cabin Creek" (his nickname acknowledged his country roots, and his accent was so thick that he squeaked his nickname sheepishly - "Zeek fr'm Cab'n Creek").[13] However, West soon impressed his colleagues with his defensive hustle, with his vertical jump—he could reach up 16 inches above the rim when he went up—and with his work ethic, spending countless extra hours working on his game.[13] On the floor, West scored 17.6 points, grabbed 7.7 rebounds and gave 4.2 assists per game. West won Schaus's trust and, alternating with Hundley, Selvy, and Leonard, played 35 minutes per game and established himself as the Lakers' second scoring option.[5] The NBA commented that the Lakers now had a potent one-two-punch—with "Mr. Inside" (the low-post scorer, Baylor) and "Mr. Outside" (the long-distance shooter, West).[1] These performances soon earned West his first of fourteen NBA All-Star Game call-ups.[5]

West helped the Lakers improve from their previous 25-win season to 36 wins as they reached the 1961 NBA Playoffs. They needed all five games to put away the Detroit Pistons; but then lost to the St. Louis Hawks in seven games, losing the final game 105–103.[14]

In West's second NBA season, the Lakers could only make limited use of Baylor, who was drafted into the U.S. Army and could play only 48 games.[13] However, West seamlessly took over the role of team leader and established himself as the main Lakers scorer, averaging 30.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, winning All-NBA First Team honors.[5] West became known especially for hitting important late-game shots, and Lakers' announcer Chick Hearn named him "Mr. Clutch" a handle which stuck with West for his entire career.[13]

The Lakers won 54 regular season games and secured a first-round bye in the 1962 NBA Playoffs. They beat the Pistons four games to two to advance to the 1962 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. The teams split the first two games, and at the end of Game 3 in Los Angeles, West tied the game at 115. The Celtics' Sam Jones inbounded the ball at half-court with three seconds left. West stole the ball, raced upcourt, and converted a running layup as the buzzer sounded.[15] The Celtics tied the series in Game 6 at three games apiece, and the teams headed to Boston for Game 7. For most of the game, the Lakers trailed, but West and Frank Selvy hit several clutch baskets and tied the game at 100. Selvy then missed an open 8-foot shot which would have won the Lakers their first title. Baylor's tip-in attempt was thwarted by Sam Jones.[15] In overtime, Jones scored several clutch baskets to ensure a 110–107 win for the Celtics. The 1962 NBA finals would serve as the beginning of the greatest rivalry in NBA history[15]

In the 1962–63 NBA season, Baylor was back full-time. West averaged 27.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists and was again NBA All-Star and All-NBA First-Team;[5] however, he played in only 55 regular season games, missing the last seven weeks due to a hamstring injury.[12] Again, the Lakers reached the finals, and again, they battled the Celtics. With West not yet in shape, Baylor and the Lakers fell back 3–2; then they succumbed in Game 6 in front of their home crowd with a 112–109 loss. As the game ended, veteran Celtics playmaker Bob Cousy threw the ball high into the rafters of the L.A. Sports Arena.[16]

In the following 1963–64 NBA season, West for the first time became the Lakers' scoring leader, his 28.7 points per game eclipsing the 25.4 by Baylor, who stated that he suffered from knee problems.[17] The Lakers struggled during the entire season, winning only 42 games, and were beaten in the first round of the 1964 NBA Playoffs by the Hawks in five games.[18]

Leader of the Lakers

The Forum became the home turf of the Lakers from 1967 onwards.

In the following 1964–65 NBA season, West averaged a career-high 31.0 points, only surpassed by perennial scoring champion Wilt Chamberlain.[5] After ending the regular season with 49 wins, L.A. played the Baltimore Bullets in the first round of the 1965 NBA Playoffs, but then team captain Baylor suffered a career-threatening knee injury.[17] West spectacularly took over Baylor's leader role, as he scored 49 points and willed the shocked Lakers to the win. In Game 2, Baltimore was unable to stop the Lakers guard, who scored 52 points and almost scored half of L.A.'s points in the 118–115 win. The Bullets took their two home games, despite West scoring 44 and 48 points respectively, but in the decisive Game 5 in L.A., the guard helped beat the Bullets with 42 points in a close 117–115 win. West averaged 46.3 points per game, a figure that is still an NBA record.[19] However, in the 1965 NBA Finals, the Celtics easily beat the short-handed Lakers with 4–1. In Game 1, which Boston easily won, defensive Celtics guard K. C. Jones kept West to only 26 points, and in Game 2, West scored 45 points, but Boston still won 129–123.[20] In Game 3, West scored 49 points, and L.A. finally won a game, but in Games 4 and 5, the Lakers were beaten by double digits; in the last quarter of Game 5, West missed 14 of 15 shots and could not prevent yet another Celtics win.[20] Still, the Lakers guard finished the playoffs with 40.6 points per game.[12]

In the 1965–66 NBA season, West averaged a career-best 31.3 points, along with 7.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game and earning him yet another pair of All-Star Team and All-NBA First Team nominations.[5] Winning 45 games, the Lakers beat the St. Louis Hawks in a close seven-game series, and yet again met the Boston Celtics in the 1966 NBA Finals. West was assisted by Baylor, who was a self-estimated "75 percent" of his pre-injury self,[21] The two long-standing rivals split the first six games, with West's usual scoring dominance countered by Celtics forward John Havlicek, whose size and speed created serious mismatch problems for the Lakers.[21] In Game 7, West and Baylor shot a combined three of 18 in the first half, and the Lakers fell far behind; L.A. willed themselves back to a close 95–93 with four seconds left, but the Celtics ran the clock out and the Lakers were denied yet again.[21]

The following 1966–67 NBA season saw West playing only 66 regular-season games due to injury;[12] his averages fell slightly to 28.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.[5] The Lakers had a disappointing season, winning only 36 games and getting swept by the San Francisco Warriors in the first round of the 1967 NBA Playoffs.[22] Veteran coach Fred Schaus retired, and Butch Van Breda Kolff took over; under his reign, the Lakers won 52 games in the 1967–68 NBA season in their first year in the The Forum.[23] The 52 wins were accumulated despite West playing only 51 regular season games due to injury[12] and scoring 26.3 points, the lowest average since his rookie year: after being a First-Teamer for six  times en bloc, he only made the All-NBA Second Team.[5] In the 1968 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers beat the Chicago Bulls and the Warriors to set up yet another Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals; it was considered a match of size versus speed, as the Lakers had nobody to counter Celtics coach/center Bill Russell or forward John Havlicek close to the basket, but the Celtics in return had difficulties guarding prolific L.A. outside shooters Baylor, West and fellow guard Gail Goodrich.[24] In Game 1, West only hit seven of 24 shots, and the Lakers lost 107–101, but L.A. evened out the series at two games each. But West, who had scored 38 points in a Game 4 win, had sprained his ankle and did not play at full strength the rest of the series.[24] In Game 5, an injured West scored 35 points, but Boston won by three points. In Game 6, Havlicek shredded the Lakers with 40 points, and after yet another Celtics loss, West commented that the Lakers lost two games they should have won: "We gave them the first game, and we gave them the fifth. But I take nothing from them… They're all that way on the Celtics, and you can't teach it."[24]

Arrival of Wilt Chamberlain

West's #44 jersey (upper left) was retired in 1983 and hangs in the rafters of the Staples Center.

On July 9, 1968, the Lakers made a spectacular trade which brought reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Award winner Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia 76ers to Los Angeles at the beginning of the 1968–69 NBA season. To get the center, the Lakers traded West's backcourt partner Archie Clark, reserve pivot Darrall Imhoff and backup forward Jerry Chambers to Philadelphia.[25] Coach Van Breda Kolff was concerned about the drain at the guard positions: after losing Clark, and especially after losing Goodrich due to the expansion draft of the Phoenix Suns, he only had diminutive, defensively weak Johnny Egan left next to West.[25] While West himself got on well with the new recruit, Chamberlain often argued with team captain Elgin Baylor and had a terrible relationship with Van Breda Kolff. Van Breda Kolff pejoratively called Chamberlain "The Load", and later complained that Chamberlain was egotistical, never respected him, too often slacked off in practice and focused too much on his own statistics.[26] In return, the center blasted Van Breda Kolff as "the dumbest and worst coach ever".[26] Once, Chamberlain would have punched his coach if Baylor had not intervened.[27] West was clearly disturbed by this locker room tension; used to playing in teams with good chemistry, his game became erratic, and he posted a career-low 25.9 points. However, he made the Second Team of the inaugural All-Defensive Team.[27]

In the 1969 NBA Playoffs, the 55-win Lakers disposed of the Atlanta Hawks and the San Francisco Warriors, setting up the sixth finals series versus Boston in eight years. Prior to Game 1, West privately complained to Bill Russell of exhaustion, but then the Lakers guard scored 53 points on Boston in a close two-point win.[28] L.A. also took Game 2, with West scoring 41 points.[29] In Game 3, Russell decided to double-team West, and the guard's exhaustion finally took its toll: West asked twice to be subbed for longer periods, and both times the Lakers fell back by double digits and finally lost by six points.[28] Game 4 saw Celtics guard Sam Jones hit a lucky off-balance buzzer beater to tie the series,[29] but in Game 5, the Lakers struck back and won by 13 points; however, they suffered a major blow when West – who scored 39 points and by far led all players in scoring during the entire series – lunged for a meaningless late-game ball and seriously pulled his hamstring: it was immediately visible that the injury would not heal until the end of the series.[28] A limping West scored 26 points in Game 6, but the Celtics won by 99–90 with a strong Bill Russell, who held Chamberlain to only eight points in the entire game.[29] In Game 7, Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke had put up thousands of balloons in the rafters of the Forum in Los Angeles. This display of arrogance motivated the Celtics and angered Jerry West.[25] The Lakers trailed the entire game and were behind by 15 in the last quarter, but powered by a limping West, the Lakers came within one point with two minutes to go and had the ball. But West committed costly turnovers and L.A. lost the game 108–106 despite a triple-double 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists of West, who became the first and only winner of the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award from the losing team.[29] After the loss, West was seen as the ultimate tragic hero: after the game, Bill Russell held his hand, and John Havlicek said: "I love you, Jerry".[28]

In the 1969–70 NBA season under new coach Joe Mullaney, the Lakers' season began with a shock when Wilt Chamberlain seriously injured his knee and missed practically the whole regular season.[30] As after Baylor's injury years before, West stepped into the void, leading the NBA in scoring average with 31.2 points per game, and averaging 4.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game, earning him his first of four All-Defensive First Team vote and another All-NBA First Team berth after two Second Team years.[5] The Lakers won 46 games, and in the 1970 NBA Playoffs, they narrowly beat the Phoenix Suns in seven games and swept the Hawks in four, setting up the first NBA Finals between the Lakers and the rugged New York Knicks, led by Hall-of-Famers, such as Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, and Walt Frazier.[31] L.A. and N.Y. split the first two games, with both games respectively decided by centers Reed and the still-hobbling Chamberlain.[31] In Game 3, DeBusschere hit a mid-range jump shot with three seconds left to put the Knicks ahead 102–100, and the Lakers had no time-outs left. Chamberlain inbounded the ball to West, who raced past Walt Frazier and threw up a 60-foot shot. Frazier later commented: "The man's crazy. He looks determined. He thinks it's really going in!"[1] West incredibly connected, and this basket was later called one of the greatest moments ever by the NBA.[32] As the three-point line had not been introduced yet, the shot just tied the game. In overtime, West however sprained his left hand and missed all his five shots, and the Knicks won by three.[3] In Game 4, the guard scored 37 points and 18 assists, and the Lakers won.[33] However, more frustration awaited West in Game 5, when Reed pulled his thigh muscle and seemed out for the series; instead of capitalising on a double-digit lead and reeling off an easy win, the Lakers committed 19 second half turnovers, and the two main scorers Chamberlain and West shot the ball only three and two times, respectively, in the entire second half and lost 107–100 in what was called one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history.[31][33] After Chamberlain scored 45 points and West 31 points plus 13 assists in a series-equalising 135–113 Lakers win, the Lakers seemed favorites prior to Game 7. However, West had also injured his right hand and received several manual injections,[31] and Reed famously hobbled up court prior to Game 7: the Knicks center scored the first four points, and inspired his team to one of the most famous playoff upsets of all time.[34] With his injured hands, West still hit nine of his 19 shots, but was outplayed by Walt Frazier, who scored 36 points and 19 assists and was credited with several crucial steals on Lakers guard Dick Garrett.[31][33]

In the 1970–71 NBA season, the Lakers resigned Gail Goodrich, who came back from the Phoenix Suns after playing for L.A. until 1968. At age 32, West averaged 27.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 9.5 assists,[5] and helped the Lakers win 46 games and make the 1971 NBA Playoffs. After losing Elgin Baylor to an Achilles tendon rupture that effectively ended his career, West himself injured his knee and was out for the season; the short-handed Lakers lost the Western Conference Finals in five games to the championship-bound Milwaukee Bucks. The Milwaukee Bucks featured freshly-crowned Most Valuable Player Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and veteran Hall-of-Fame guard Oscar Robertson.[35]

Late success and twilight years

Prior to the 1971–72 NBA season, West was smarting from his frequent injuries and losses and considered retirement.[1] The Lakers hired former Celtics star guard and future Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Sharman as head coach. Although injured captain Elgin Baylor ended his career, the Lakers had a season for the ages: powered by Sharman's emphasis on tough defense and fast break offense, L.A. embarked on an unprecedented 33 game win streak, en route to a then-record 69 wins in the regular season.[36] West himself contributed with 25.8 points and leading the league with a career-high 9.7 assists per game, was named All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defense First Teamer and voted 1972 All-Star Game MVP.[5]

In the post-season, the Lakers defeated the Chicago Bulls in a four game sweep,[37] then went on to face the Milwaukee Bucks, and defeated them in six games. In the 1972 NBA Finals, the Lakers again met the New York Knicks. Although West suffered a terrible shooting slump during Games 1 and 2, the Lakers tied the series at one win each, and in Game 3, he scored 21 points and helped L.A. win Game 3. In this game, he now had scored 4,002 playoff point, which set an all-time NBA record.[38] After winning Game 4 due to a superb Wilt Chamberlain, West scored 23 points in Game 5, and he won the game and their first-ever NBA title.[38] West conceded that he had played a terrible series, and credited the team for the success. Years later he said "I played terrible basketball in the Finals, and we won… It was particularly frustrating because I was playing so poorly that the team overcame me. Maybe that's what a team is all about."[36]

Now having vanquished this long-time bane, West entered his 13th NBA year. In the 1972–73 NBA season, the main scoring role was taken by Goodrich, and now more playmaker instead of a scorer. However, West averaged 22.8 points, but also averaged 8.8 assists per game, and again was a First Teamer in the All-Star, All-NBA, and All-Defense Teams.[5] The Lakers won 60 games and reached the 1973 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks. In Game 1 West scored 24 points before fouling out with three minutes left and L.A. won Game 1 with 115–112.[39] However, the Knicks took Games 2 and 3, and West strained both of his hamstrings: in Game 4, the shorthanded Lakers were no match for New York, and in Game 5, the valiant, but injured West and Hairston had miserable games, and despite Chamberlain scoring 23 points and grabbing 21 rebounds, the Lakers lost 102–93 and the series.[40][41]

The following 1973–74 NBA season was to be West's last. Now 36 years old, the veteran guard averaged 20.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game.[5] In two newly introduced statistics, steals and blocks, he was credited with 2.6 steals and 0.7 blocks per game. Despite playing only 31 games due to a strained groin,[1] West was still regarded as an elite guard, earning another callup into his final All-Star Game.[5] Without Chamberlain, who had ended his NBA career, the Lakers won 47 games and lost in five games to the Milwaukee Bucks. After this loss, West acknowledged he was getting older and ended his player career: "I'm not willing to sacrifice my standards. Perhaps I expect too much."[1] At the time of his departure, West had scored more points than any Laker in NBA history.[12]

Coaching and managing career

In the summer of 1996, West traded for shooting guard Kobe Bryant, and signed then free agent Shaquille O'Neal.

In the 1976–77 season, West became coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. In three years, he led the Lakers of star center and former rival Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to a 145–101 record, always making the playoffs and reaching the Western Conference Finals once in 1977.[42] After his coaching stint, he worked as a scout for three years before becoming general manager of the Lakers prior to the 1982–83 season. credits West in creating the great 1980s Lakers dynasty, which brought four championship rings (1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988) to Los Angeles.[1] After a slump in the early 1990s, West rebuilt the team of coach Del Harris around center Vlade Divac and guard Nick Van Exel, which won 48 games, and went to the Western Conference Semifinals; for turning the team around, West received his first Executive of the Year Award.[43] By trading Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant, signing free agent center Shaquille O'Neal, and signing six-time NBA champion Phil Jackson as a coach, West laid down the fundaments of the Lakers three-peat which saw L.A. win three NBA titles from 2000 to 2002.[1]

In 1999, West signed six-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson.

In 2002, West became general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies. He explained his decision with the desire for exploring something new: "After being a part of the Lakers success for so many years, I have always wondered how it would be to build a winning franchise that has not experienced much success. I want to help make a difference."[44] West's Memphis stint was not as spectacular as his Los Angeles stint, but still highly impressive: he turned a franchise which was about to be sold into a reliable playoffs team, practically making no trades but getting the maximum from the players he had available (e.g. Pau Gasol, James Posey and Jason Williams) and signing coach Hubie Brown, who became Coach of the Year in 2004.[45] West himself won his second NBA Executive of the Year Award in the same year.[43] At age 69, retired as a Grizzlies general manager in 2007 and turned over managing duties to Chris Wallace, from Buckhannon, WV.[45]


West ended his career with 14 All-Star, 12 All-NBA and five all-NBA Team call-ups and scored 25,192 points, 6,238 assists and 5,366 rebounds in 932 games, translating to an average of 27.0 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game.[5] Among retired players, only Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain surpass his 27.0 points per game average.[1] He led the Lakers in scoring in seven seasons,[10] and was universally seen as one of the greatest clutch players in NBA history; only Jordan had a higher career scoring average in the playoffs (33.5 versus 29.1).[46] In 1979, West was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Lakers retired his #44 jersey in 1983.[10] In March 2008, ESPN voted West the third greatest shooting guard of all time.[47] As a coach, West led the Lakers into three consecutive playoff campaigns, and then went on to win seven NBA championships as a manager, building the 1980s Lakers dynasty under coach Pat Riley and players Magic Johnson, Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy and the 2000s under coach Phil Jackson and players Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.[1]

In the summer of 2000, the city of Morgantown, West Virginia, and West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood, dedicated the road outside of the West Virginia University Coliseum, "Jerry West Boulevard." The same road is shared on the south end of Morgantown with Don Knotts Boulevard, in honor of another WVU alumnus.[48] Also, on November 26, 2005, his number 44 became the first basketball number to be retired by West Virginia University and on February 17, 2007, a bronze statue of him was honored outside of the WVU Coliseum.[49] Finally, the NBA logo itself is modelled after West's silhouette.[1]

Player profile

West was an all-around combo guard who could take the playmaking roles of a point guard and score like a shooting guard, while being equally strong on offense and on defense.[1] He had a jump shot with a release the NBA lauded as "lightning quick", and was known for making baskets late in the game, earning him the nickname "Mr. Clutch".[1] Having played forward early in his career, West was also a capable rebounder, and gifted with long arms, quick hands and strong defensive instincts, West was also one described as one of the best ball hawks, man-to-man defenders and shot blockers among NBA guards:[13] when the All-Defensive Teams were introduced in 1969, West made every one of them until his career ended in 1974.[5] However, contemporaries were most impressed by West's work ethic, obsessively practicing and shooting and rarely being satisfied with himself.[13]

West's all-round game and attitude is maybe best expressed in his statistically most spectacular game: he once was credited with 44 points (16 of 17 shots from the field, 12 of 12 free throw attempts) with 12 rebounds, 12 assists and (unofficially counted) 10 blocked shots, thus scoring a non-official ultra-rare quadruple double.[1] Instead of being proud, West merely commented: "Defensively, from a team standpoint, I didn't feel I played very well. Very rarely was I satisfied with how I played."[1]

Personal life

West interviewed on ESPN Los Angeles

Jerry Alan West was born as the fifth of six children of his mother Cecil Sue West, a housewife, and her husband Howard Stewart West, a coal mine electrician.[50] West was a shy, introverted boy, who grew up in a poor family and whose father was so drained after work that he could not play with his children. He was so small and frail that he needed vitamin injections and was kept apart from children's sports, to prevent him from getting seriously hurt.[2] He became even more withdrawn when his closest brother David died in the Korean War at age 22 when Jerry was 12.[2] A prototypical loner, West spent his childhood days hunting, fishing, and playing basketball so often that the NBA acknowledged it as "obsessive".[1]

West was married to his college sweetheart Martha Jane Kane from 1960 to 1976, until they got divorced.[3] They have three sons, David, Mark and Michael.[44] Jerry married his current wife Karen in 1978. They have two sons, Ryan and Jonnie.[3][44] Jonnie West is currently a guard at West's old team, the West Virginia Mountaineers.[51]

As a person, West was often described as an introverted and nervous character, but who also drew highest praise for his uncompromising work ethic. Regarding his shyness, WVU room mate Jody Gardner testified that West never dated in his entire freshman year, and Lakers coach Fred Schaus once recalled a two-week period when his guard never said a word.[52] Apart from being shy, West was always restless: Schaus described him as a "bundle of nerves", Celtics contemporary Bob Cousy as "always on the move", and fellow Laker and Mountaineer Rod Hundley testified that during bar visits, West would quickly squirm and demand to go elsewhere before everybody else had settled.[53] His first wife Martha Kane recalled that her husband often had difficulties opening up to her. After a big loss, the Wests would drive home and she would try to console him, but West would say "get out" at the home porch and drive away -- an experience that "killed" her as a wife.[54]

Early in his career, West's West Virginian roots made him target for some mild jeering. He spoke with a high pitched voice that became even shriller when he became excited, so that Lakers captain Elgin Baylor dubbed West "Tweety Bird".[13] His Appalachian accent was so thick that one coach interrupted him and asked him to speak English.[13] Baylor once commented: "Rumors are safe with you, Tweety Bird. You pass them on, but nobody can understand you."[52]

West was also regarded for his extreme mental toughness and his exemplary work ethic. The NBA described West as "obsessive perfectionism, unabashed confidence, and an uncompromising will to win… a level of intensity so high it could melt lead".[1] Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn once said: "He took a loss harder than any player I've ever known. He would sit by himself and stare into space. A loss just ripped his guts out." [1] Even before his sole championship in 1972, the Lakers held a "Jerry West Night", and eleven-time NBA champion and perennial rival Bill Russell appeared and said: "Jerry, you are, in every sense of the word, truly a champion… If I could have one wish granted, it would be that you would always be happy."[55]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x " Jerry West Bio". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d " Jerry West Bio". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kiger, Fred W. (2003-11-19). "ESPN Classic: More info on Jerry West". Rosen Publishing Group. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  4. ^ a b Carter, Bob. " The also-ran was also a champion". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Jerry West Statistics". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  6. ^ a b c "Jerry West". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  7. ^ Jerry West 1958, retrieved 2008-09-22
  8. ^ Jerry West 1960, retrieved 2008-09-22
  9. ^ WVU Alumni: Jerry West, retrieved 2008-09-22
  10. ^ a b c LAKERS: Lakers Retired Numbers,, 2008-06-04, retrieved 2008-09-22
  11. ^ [1],, retrieved 2008-09-22
  12. ^ a b c d e f "LAKERS: Los Angeles Lakers History". Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Taylor, John (2005). The Rivalry: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and the Golden Age of Basketball. New York: Random House. pp. 163–167. ISBN 1-4000-6114-8. 
  14. ^ 1961 NBA Playoffs Summary,, retrieved 2008-09-22
  15. ^ a b c " Celtics, Lakers work OT to start Rivalry". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  16. ^ " Cousy retires as Six-Time champion". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  17. ^ a b Elgin Baylor Bio,, retrieved 2008-09-22
  18. ^ 1963-64 Los Angeles Lakers,, retrieved 2008-09-22
  19. ^ West averages 46.3 PPG,, retrieved 2008-09-22
  20. ^ a b Celtics Win Seventh Straight Finals
  21. ^ a b c " Red Lights Cigar to close coaching career". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  22. ^ 1966–67 Los Angeles Lakers,, retrieved 2008-09-22
  23. ^ 1967–68 Los Angeles Lakers,, retrieved 2008-09-30
  24. ^ a b c " Boston is alive and well". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  25. ^ a b c Cherry, 216–222.
  26. ^ a b Cherry, 213–215
  27. ^ a b Cherry, 323–326.
  28. ^ a b c d Cherry, 336–353.
  29. ^ a b c d " West's heroics can't deprive Russell of 11th title". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  30. ^ Cherry, 227
  31. ^ a b c d e " Gutsy Reed Rallies Knicks in Game 7". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  32. ^ Mr. Clutch Sinks A 60-Footer,, retrieved 2008-09-22
  33. ^ a b c Cherry, 231–239
  34. ^ (2007-02-10). "Willis Reed Bio". Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  35. ^ (2007-02-10). "1971 NBA Season Summary". Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  36. ^ a b " Laker's Legendary Season Leads To Elusive Title". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  37. ^ (2007-02-17). "Los Angeles Lakers 1971-72 Game Log and Scores". Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  38. ^ a b Cherry, 266–270.
  39. ^ " Knicks Win One For the Aged". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  40. ^ Cherry, 291.
  41. ^ (2007-02-10). "1973 NBA Season Summary". Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  42. ^ 1976–77 Los Angeles Lakers Statistics,, retrieved 2008-09-22
  43. ^ a b NBA Awards: Executive of the Year,, retrieved 2008-09-22
  44. ^ a b c Memphis Grizzlies Announce the Hiring of Jerry West as Franchise’s New President of Basketball Operations,, 2002-04-30, retrieved 2008-09-22
  45. ^ a b Walker, Teresa M. (2007-04-17). "Jerry West Leaving As Grizzlies Exec". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  46. ^ Career Playoff Leaders and Records for Points Per Game,, Retrieved 2008-09-25
  47. ^ (2008-03-11). "ESPN – Special Dime: Greatest Shooting Guards Ever". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  48. ^ WVU legend has a Morgantown street named in his honor,, 2000-08-15, retrieved 2008-09-23
  49. ^ Jerry West Statue Erected,, 2008-02-08, retrieved 2008-09-23
  50. ^ "Jerry West – Born In Cheylan, West Virginia". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  51. ^ ESPN: Jonnie West Statistics,, retrieved 2008-09-23
  52. ^ a b Deford, Frank (1972-02-07). "A teddy bear's picnic (Page 2)". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  53. ^ Deford, Frank (1972-02-07). "A teddy bear's picnic (Page 4)". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  54. ^ Deford, Frank (1972-02-07). "A teddy bear's picnic (Page 5)". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  55. ^ Deford, Frank (1972-02-07). "A teddy bear's picnic (Page 1)". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 

Further reading

  • Libby, Bill; West, Jerry (1969). Mr. Clutch. The Jerry West story. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0136047106. 
  • Cherry, Robert (2004). Wilt: Larger than Life. Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-672-7. 
  • Taylor, John (2005). The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball. New York City: Random House. ISBN 1-4000-6114-8. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Elgin Baylor
NCAA Basketball Tournament
Most Outstanding Player

Succeeded by
Jerry Lucas
Preceded by
NBA Finals Most Valuable Player
Succeeded by
Willis Reed
Preceded by
Lenny Wilkens
NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player
Succeeded by
Dave Cowens
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Bill Sharman
Los Angeles Lakers head coach
Succeeded by
Jack McKinney

Simple English

Jerry West
West on February 1, 2010
Jersey #(s):
Born: May 28, 1938 (1938-05-28) (age 72)
Chelyan, West Virginia
Career information
Year(s): 1960–1974
NBA Draft: 1960 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2 Selected by Los Angeles Lakers
College: West Virginia
Professional teams
  • Los Angeles Lakers (1960–1974)
Career stats
Points     25,192
Rebounds     5,366
Assists     6,238
Stats @
Career highlights and awards
  • NBA 35th Anniversary Team (1981
  • NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996)
  • 1969 NBA Finals MVP
  • 1972 NBA Champion
  • 14× NBA All-Star (1961–74)
  • 1972 NBA All-Star MVP
  • 10× All-NBA First Team (1962–67, 1970–73)
  • 2× All-NBA Second Team (1968, 1969)
  • 3× NBA All-Defensive Team (1970–73)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (1976–1979)

Jerry West (born May 28, 1938) is a former American basketball player. He is thought to be one of the best guards who ever played in the NBA. He played from 1960 to 1974, all with the Los Angeles Lakers. He wore number 44, which was retired by the Lakers. He had scored the most points in a Laker jersey before Kobe Bryant ended his record in 2010. He is the model for the NBA logo. After playing, he was a coach and general manager for the Lakers. He was also the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies and organized golf tournaments. He was originally from West Virginia.


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