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“The LOGO” Jerry West dies at 86


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As the Los Angeles Lakers approached their long-awaited return to NBA glory, the anticipation was palpable throughout the city. The 1999-2000 Lakers, carefully crafted by Jerry West, were on the brink of winning the franchise’s first championship since 1988. Yet, on the night they could secure this victory, Jerry West was notably absent from the arena.

West, the legendary Lakers’ general manager, had spent years meticulously building a team capable of dominating the league. His efforts culminated in the acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, two generational talents whose synergy on the court promised to deliver championships. To complete the puzzle, West recruited Phil Jackson, the zen master of coaching, to steer the team to victory. The result was a Lakers squad that was a game away from defeating the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals.

Despite the monumental stakes and the years of work leading to this moment, West chose not to be present at what was then called Staples Center. Instead, he took a solitary drive up the Ventura Freeway to Santa Barbara, miles away from the chaos and excitement of Los Angeles. West’s absence wasn’t due to a lack of interest but rather because of his overwhelming emotional investment in the team’s success. Watching the games in person or even listening to them on the radio would have been too much for him to bear.

“I told my friend Bobby Freedman only to call me if there was good news,” West wrote in his autobiography, “West by West.” This sentiment encapsulates the essence of West’s relationship with the sport. He was deeply passionate, almost to a fault, about basketball and the Lakers’ success.

West’s passing at 86 has left a void in the NBA community, prompting reflections on his immense contributions to the sport. Oscar Robertson, a contemporary and fellow Hall of Famer, expressed the collective sorrow felt across the league, describing it as “a very sad day.”

Jerry West’s legacy is indelibly etched in the annals of basketball history. As a player, he was a 14-time All-Star and a 12-time All-NBA selection, often regarded as the embodiment of the sport’s relentless pursuit of excellence. He was instrumental in overcoming the Celtics’ dominance as both a player and an executive, eventually building dynasties that defined the Lakers’ success for decades.

The Lakers’ resurgence in the early 2000s, with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant at the helm, mirrored the team’s dominance during the Magic Johnson era in the 1980s. West’s ability to rebuild and adapt, much like Red Auerbach with the Celtics, kept the Lakers at the forefront of the NBA.

The 1999-2000 championship marked the beginning of a three-peat, a testament to West’s vision and tenacity. While the Lakers and Celtics continue to vie for supremacy, each chasing their 18th NBA title, West’s contributions remain a cornerstone of the Lakers’ storied legacy.

West’s decision to stay away from the celebratory spectacle on that historic night underscores his complex relationship with the game he loved. His intense dedication to the Lakers’ success often meant sacrificing his own peace of mind. Yet, his behind-the-scenes influence was undeniable, and his absence from the spotlight on that championship night was emblematic of his understated but profound impact on the sport.

As the NBA community mourns Jerry West’s passing, his legacy as the reluctant architect behind the Lakers’ return to glory remains a poignant reminder of the passion and sacrifice that fuel the game. West’s journey, characterized by relentless pursuit and emotional depth, continues to inspire and shape the future of basketball.

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