Skip to Content

NBA legend Jerry West dies aged 86

By Amy Woodyatt, Jill Martin, Kevin Dotson and Ben Morse, CNN

(CNN) — Jerry West – legendary NBA player and inspiration for the league’s current logo – has died, according to the Los Angeles Clippers. He was 86.

The Clippers said West passed away Wednesday morning with his wife Karen by his side.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement on Wednesday: “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 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,” Silver continued.

“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 – known on the court as “Mr. Clutch” – was drafted by the then-named Minneapolis Lakers in 1960, shortly before the franchise relocated to Los Angeles. He played for the team as a point guard and shooting guard until 1974, and during this time he became a 14-time NBA All-Star and helped lead his team to the NBA Finals nine times.

West was also a co-captain of the US Olympic basketball team that went on to win the gold in 1960.

After his playing career, he coached the Lakers for three seasons beginning in 1976 before becoming a scout and then joining the front office of the franchise.

During his time in leadership for the Lakers, West helped rebuild the team, first during the “Showtime” Lakers era of the 1980s with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy among others, before rebuilding the team in the mid-1990s with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

He later took on leadership roles with the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and the Clippers. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump.

“I am so deeply saddened at the news of Jerry’s passing,” Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan said, via his representative. “He was truly a friend and a mentor. Like an older brother to me.

“I valued his friendship and knowledge. I always wished I could’ve played against him as a competitor, but the more I came to know him, I wish I had been his teammate.

“I admired his basketball insights, and he and I shared many similarities to how we approached the game. He will be forever missed. My condolences to his wife Karen and his sons. Rest in peace, Logo.”

Johnson, who played for the Lakers for 13 seasons, posted to X Wednesday afternoon, “Today is a sad day for basketball fans.”

“Jerry West was more than a general manager, he was a great friend and confidante. He was there in my highest moments, winning five NBA Championships, and in my lowest moment when I announced my HIV diagnosis and we cried together for hours in his office,” Johnson wrote.

“Beyond his basketball accolades as a basketball player and NBA executive, Jerry West was a great man, a leader of men, fiercely loved his family and friends, and despite holding jobs with other franchises, he was a Lakers fan for life,” he added. “Laker Nation, the only reason we have 17 NBA championships is because of Jerry West and his expertise drafting players, trading for players, and hiring the right coaches.”

West’s former teammate and colleague Pat Riley also shared his condolences:

“I loved Jerry West! We loved being Lakers together; it was sacred ground. We grew in life with each other and shared the best and worst of times together,” Riley said in a statement Wednesday. “We can only hope there is someone we meet during a crucial time in our lives that will change you in ways you could dream about. Jerry was that person for me.”

“Jerry kicked down that coaching door for me and said, you can do this, but it has to be now. He knew, then he let me coach. I thank him forever and always for giving me that opportunity,” he continued, calling West “smart, committed, opinionated, fearless, generous, ultra-competitive, (and) stubborn, but with great grace.”

‘The Logo’

One of the most famous players in the history of the league, a silhouette of West during a Lakers game was famously the inspiration for the NBA’s logo, leading to his other nickname “The Logo.”

In 1969, the NBA commissioned a new logo for the league from designer Alan Siegel, who had famously overseen the design of Major League Baseball’s logo.

Siegel, a fan of West, found his inspiration in a photograph of the Lakers guard’s perfect dribbling form. “It’s the easiest job I ever had,” Siegel told CNN Sport.

Siegel has no problem admitting that the NBA logo is based on West, but it’s a different story when it comes to the NBA itself. The league has never formally acknowledged that the logo depicts West and did not respond to requests for comment.

But in the NBA’s defense, Siegel confesses that he never told anyone at the NBA that the logo was modeled after West and never intended for it to be recognizable as the 1972 NBA champion.

West’s influence on basketball for a long stretch of time was far-reaching, with broadcaster Stephen A. Smith saying: “He was relevant to the game of basketball literally from the ’60s until he passed away in his sleep last night.”

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer called West 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,” Ballmer said in a statement.

“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.”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Sports

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content