Jerry West obituary


Jerry West, who has died aged 86, was a novel drive in basketball for the higher a part of seven a long time. A star for the Los Angeles Lakers for 14 years, not solely is West nonetheless thought-about one of many high handful of gamers in Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (NBA) historical past, however in his second profession in administration he constructed two separate dynastic Laker groups, turned across the struggling Memphis Grizzlies, and as a guide performed a component within the run of success of the Golden State Warriors. As if that weren’t sufficient, West was additionally the mannequin for the NBA’s emblem, a silhouette of him dribbling the ball in his left hand, which led to his enduring nickname, “The Brand”.

Nice gamers usually want multiple nickname to totally outline them; the Los Angeles announcer Chick Hearn dubbed West “Mr Clutch”, after his penchant for making game-winning photographs. But West’s particular person expertise was usually diminished by his groups’ lack of ability to clear the ultimate hurdle. His most well-known shot, a 60-footer that tied the New York Knicks on the buzzer within the 1970 NBA finals and despatched the sport into extra time, nonetheless wound up a Laker loss.

And no participant took dropping extra intensely. “He by no means discovered to lose,” wrote Jeff Coplon, in a profile titled The Man Who Loves Basketball Too A lot, printed in Males’s Journal in 1996. He was usually thought to be a risky, tightly wound man, who may very well be annoyed by imperfections in his personal and others’ play.

West got here by this obsession the exhausting manner. He grew up poor within the hardscrabble West Virginia coal nation, born in Cheylan, the place his father, Howard, was a mine electrician and a machine operator for an oil firm. His mom, Cecile Sue (nee Creasy), labored in a retailer. Jerry was a shy and sickly youngster, needing vitamin photographs, and was saved from sports activities, so he started capturing basketballs alone at a hoop on the facet of a neighbour’s barn. His father was abusive; Jerry spent a lot of his childhood with a loaded shotgun beneath his mattress. In 1951 his brother David, 9 years older, was killed within the Korean conflict, and for Jerry basketball grew to become an obsession.

After failing in his first attempt to make his highschool’s basketball workforce, a progress spurt to 6ft led to him beginning the subsequent 12 months, and he grew to become a star in his third season, taking East Financial institution highschool to the state championship; yearly thereafter,till the varsity closed in 1999, on the anniversary of that sport, East Financial institution was renamed West Financial institution for a day.

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A statue of West exterior the Enviornment in Los Angeles. {Photograph}: Richard Vogel/AP

In his first 12 months on the College of West Virginia the workforce received 26 video games, and misplaced two; in his second they misplaced the nationwide championship to the College of California 71-70, though West was chosen the match’s “most dear participant” (MVP). The following 12 months, ranked second within the nation, they had been upset within the match by New York College. Within the 1960 NBA draft, West was chosen second general by the Lakers, after Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson. That summer time the California coach Pete Newell selected each gamers because the core of the US Olympic workforce; in Rome, West and Robertson led them to eight wins, and the gold medal.

West joined the Lakers for the 1960-61 season. His teammate Elgin Baylor heard his southern accent and dubbed him Tweety Fowl, however the title that caught was the hillbilly-sounding “Zeke, from Cabin Creek”, Cabin Creek being simply down the highway apiece from Cheylan.

With Baylor’s potential to play above the basket, and West’s capturing, the pair had been dubbed “Mr Inside and Mr Outdoors” in homage to the military soccer greats Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis. West, now listed at 6ft 3in, however in truth nearly two inches taller, with lengthy arms and advantageous leaping potential, might rating, cross, rebound and defend. However he had an innate sense of the game. “It’s a sport of quickness,” he stated, “and the way your thoughts is wired.” And he was robust; his nostril was damaged 14 occasions.

He and Baylor made LA the most effective workforce within the NBA’s west. However they might not beat Invoice Russell’s Boston Celtics, falling to them six occasions within the championship finals. In 1969, limping from an injured hamstring, West scored 42 factors within the deciding sport, and repeated his faculty feat of being named MVP from a dropping workforce, the one one in NBA historical past. Russell as soon as stated his biggest want was to “see Jerry completely satisfied”. In 1970 the Lakers added Wilt Chamberlain as middle, and after dropping to the Knicks, got here again to lastly win a championship in 1972, with a workforce that received a report 33 straight video games.

West retired two years later. He transferred his obsessiveness to golf; at one level capturing a course-record of 28 on the entrance 9 at Bel-Air Membership in LA, however ending the spherical with a 65. In 1976, the Lakers coaxed him again as coach. He improved the workforce to the league’s greatest report in his first season, however he bristled on the selfishness and sloppiness of the gamers and after three seasons moved to scouting.

He took over as Lakers’ basic supervisor in 1982, profitable 4 titles with the “Showtime” workforce led by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. Then he constructed a second dynasty round Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Solely Boston’s Crimson Auerbach had managed to construct successive dynasties; no former star participant ever had. However a rift with the coach Phil Jackson led to West’s departure for Memphis in 2000.

He retired in 2007, and in 2011 printed an autobiography: West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life (with Jonathan Coleman). That 12 months he joined the Warriors’ government board, and titles adopted in 2015 and 2017. He publicly provided to return to the Lakers, who had been rebuilding their administration; as a substitute he went to the Los Angeles Clippers.

West’s first marriage, to his faculty sweetheart Martha Jane Kane, resulted in divorce. He’s survived by his second spouse, Karen Bua, whom he married in 1978, and their two sons, Ryan and Johnnie, and by three sons, David, Mark and Michael, from his first marriage.


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