Jerry West, One of Basketball’s Greatest Players, Dies at 86

West ranked #5 on the list of The Best White Players in NBA History [Ranker NBA, June 2, 2024]

THE NEW YORK TIMES – Jerry West, who emerged from West Virginia coal country to become one of basketball’s greatest players, a signature figure in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers and a literal icon of the sport — his is the silhouette on the logo of the National Basketball Association, died on Wednesday. He was 86.

The Los Angeles Clippers announced his death but provided no other details. West was a consultant with the team in recent years.

He won championships with several generations of Laker teams and Laker stars and was an all-star in each of his 14 seasons, but except for his longtime teammate, the great forward Elgin Baylor, who retired without a championship, there may have never been a greater player who suffered the persistent close-but-no-cigar frustration that followed West for the bulk of his career on the court.

During his tenure, the Lakers buzzed almost perpetually around the championship, but West had the misfortune to play while the Boston Celtics, with Bill Russell at center, were at the height of their indomitability — they beat the Lakers in the finals six times.

It wasn’t until the Lakers acquired their own giant, Wilt Chamberlain, that they triumphed, but even that took four seasons — and a seventh defeat in the finals, to the Knicks in 1970 — to accomplish.

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“Great white basketball players of past decades (Jerry West, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, etc.) refused to play into the GWH [Great White Hope] Syndrome even though they benefited greatly from it. The current National Basketball Association logo still bears the silhouette of Jerry West, even though he has stated that he is uncomfortable with it.” – THE BAY STATE BANNER, May 9, 2024

The 1971-72 Lakers won 69 games, a record at the time — the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls won 72 and the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors won 73 — including a still unequaled streak of 33 in a row.

When they avenged their loss to the Knicks, winning the 1972 championship, West spoke after the last game with a colossal sense of relief …

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