Legendary NBA figure Jerry West passes at 86: Where does he rank among the greatest executives and players ever?

jerry west
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The man used in the iconic NBA logo, Jerry West, passed away peacefully on Tuesday night at the age of 86.

On Wednesday morning, various outlets reported that Hall-of-Famer and Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West had passed away peacefully at his home with his wife Karen. The news has been met with condolences and fond memories from around the basketball world, including from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

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“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.’

“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 contributor.”

– Statement from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
  • Jerry West stats (Career): 20.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 6.6 APG, 2.6 SPG

West was one of the most influential figures the NBA has seen during its history, so where does he rank among the greatest players and executives to compete in the league over the last 60-plus years?

Jerry West’s place among the legendary players and executives in NBA history

jerry west
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

West had the very rare achievement of being an All-Star in every single season of his 14-year NBA career. He was a 10-time All-NBA first-time player and on four occasions he also earned first-team All-Defense honors. Showing how well-rounded of a superstar he was during his playing days in the 1960s and 70s.

He was an NBA MVP runner-up four times and helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals on nine occasions but only won it all once — in 1971 versus the New York Knicks. He is also the only player to ever win a Finals MVP award for a team that lost the championship series.

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He was voted to the list of the 75 best NBA players of all time and will go down as one of the 10 to 15 best guards in NBA history. However, a case could be made that he was more influential as an executive.

First as a scout, then as the general manager, Jerry West was the architect of the 1980s Showtime Lakers teams that went on to win five championships. He also helped set up the franchise’s dynasty teams in the 2000s as he helped to sign Shaquille O’Neal and traded for fellow LA legend Kobe Bryant.

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He then went on to turn the Memphis Grizzlies into a competitive and respectable team in the mid-2000s as they reached the playoffs on three occasions and it helped him win his second executive of the year award. In his final acts as a notable exec, he advised the Golden State Warriors as they put together their recent dynasty and helped the team land Kevin Durant in a blockbuster 2016 trade.

When it comes to NBA execs, a case could be made that Jerry West is the greatest to ever do it in professional basketball.

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