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Hall of Famer, Lakers legend, ‘The Logo’ Jerry West dies at age 86

Patrick emotional over the death of West
Dan Patrick is overcome by emotion when discussing the death of "The Logo" Jerry West at 86, a "friend and integral part of the show."

Younger fans often just know him as “the Logo” — because the silhouetted basketball player in the NBA logo is based on him — or as a consultant to the Warriors and Clippers in recent years.

That leaves out so much of Jerry West’s incredibly rich basketball legacy. West was one of the greatest guards to ever play in the league — a 14-time All-Star, NBA champion, 12-time All-NBA, the only player to win Finals MVP on the losing team (averaging 37.9 points and 7.4 assists a game in the 1969 NBA Finals), Olympic gold medalist, scoring champion, league assist leader, and part of the NBA’s 50th and 75th-anniversary teams. He is one of the greatest Lakers and one of the greatest players the game had ever seen — and that was before he went on to be a GM of the Lakers Showtime era. West is up there with Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the most influential people in the history of the NBA.

West died peacefully on Tuesday night with his wife, Karen, by his side, the Clippers announced. He was 86.

“Jerry West was a basketball genius and a defining figure in our league for more than 60 years,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “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 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.”

West was synonymous with winning—he was an All-Star in each of his 14 NBA seasons. He was an explosive athlete who was so physically strong that Celtic legend KC Jones said he used to just have to tackle West to foul him. West knew how to get a bucket. He was the third player in NBA history to score 25,000 points (Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson).

More than just scoring, West was nicknamed Mr. Clutch because of his scoring when it mattered. In Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals, he hit maybe the most legendary buzzer-beater in NBA history.

West scored more points than any Laker until Kobe Bryant took that crown from him.

West had a lot in common with Kobe — and legendarily talked then Nets head man John Calipari out of drafting Kobe, allowing him to fall into position for the Lakers to grab him (via trade). Like Kobe, West was as competitive and driven as anyone who ever played in the league — like all the greats, he feared losing more than he chased winning. That drove him. When he was the Lakers’ GM he couldn’t watch the games live, especially playoff games, because he would get sick. He admitted in his later years what people around him long knew — winning didn’t bring him joy so much as relief.

West, the player, led Los Angeles to the NBA Finals nine times, but that was during the Bill Russell Celtics era. Los Angeles kept coming up short in the Finals until they broke through in 1972 with the help of Chamberlain.

West was born and raised in West Virginia, where he played in college. As author Roland Lazenby describes in his biography of West, he was the product of a perfectionist mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. That left him both driven but always with self-esteem issues—he wanted to quit the 1960 Rome Olympic team because he didn’t think he was good enough (that team went on to win gold). West talked about his self-esteem issues with Jonathan Abrams for a story on Grantland.

“Self-esteem is something I still battle. People look at me and say you’ve got fame, you’ve got admiration, you’ve done this, you’ve done that. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t done anything. I’ve just fulfilled a dream of competing. I could be special in some ways. Even though I felt at times, ‘My goodness, you’re among the upper echelon,’ there is still a huge void there. A huge void. It is about self-esteem. That’s a thing that has always been a real complex part of my life.”

West was one of the few great players to transition from the court to the front office, where he went on to be the GM of the Lakers — assembling the Showtime Lakers — and the Memphis Grizzlies. He later was a consultant with the Golden State Warriors as their dynasty formed — West pushed hard against trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love, a move that would have made the Warriors a more traditional roster but robbed them of what ultimately made them special. West was later hired to be a consultant with the Clippers when Steve Ballmer took over, at times talking the energetic owner down from rash decisions, and helping turn the Clippers into a respected franchise.

West was as direct and brutally honest a person as you would find — in an interview he wanted to cut straight to the hard questions, no small talk — but was also as generous and kind a person as you will meet. He was always genuine and authentic in everything he did.

Our thoughts are with the West family.