Sunday, 1 April 2012

Jerry West

Jerry West Biography
Jerry West is a former 14-time NBA All-Star guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Nicknamed "Mr. Clutch," West was the all-time leading scorer in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history, before being passed by Kobe Bryant in 2010. At West Virginia University, West averaged 24.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per game in his three seasons with the Mountaineers. In 1959, West won Most Valuable Player honors in the NCAA Championship game despite losing to the University of California.
After Jerry West retired from playing professional basketball, he served as head coach of the Lakers for three seasons before becoming general manager in 1982. As general manager for 18 seasons, West was at the helm during the Magic and Kareem dynasty run of the 1980's and was responsible for trading for Kobe Bryant and signing free agent Shaquille O'Neal in 1996. In 2002, West joined the Memphis Grizzlies as President of Basketball Operations and was selected as NBA Executive of the Year in 2004.
Jerry West was elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980 and is a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. The NBA's logo is based around a silhouette of West dribbling the ball.
Early Years
Jerry West was born in Cabin Creek, West Virginia and raised in nearby Cheylan. Nicknamed "Zeke from Cabin Creek," basketball became an important part of West's life at an early age. West would practice on a basketball rim that was nailed to a storage shack at his neighbor's house. Even in the winter, West would continue to play basketball, wearing gloves to keep his hands warm. West attended East Bank High School from 1952-1956. In his senior season, West led his school to the state championship and became the first person in state history to score more than 900 points in a season. In celebration of that accomplishment, the residents in East Bank renamed their town "West" Bank for a day. On March 24 of every year, East Bank High School changes its name to "West" in honor of their star player.
College Career
Jerry West was recruited by over 60 colleges but decided to stay close to home and attend West Virginia University. He went 17-0 with his freshman Mountaineers squad before spending three years with the varsity team under head coach Fred Schaus. In his sophomore season, West averaged 17.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, leading West Virginia to a 26-2 record and earning All-American Third team honors. As a junior, West averaged 26.6 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, leading the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament Game. West Virginia would lose to the University of California in the title game, 71-70. West tied the NCAA five-game tournament record with 160 points en route to Most Valuable Player Honors.
During West's senior year, he set career highs in scoring (29.3 points), rebounds (16.5), assists (4.3), and was named Southern Conference Most Valuable Player. During his career, West scored 2,309 points and racked up 1,240 rebounds. West set 12 school records and is West Virginia's all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
West was selected to the United States Pan American Games men's basketball team and was a co-captain of the 1960 Summer Olympics with Oscar Robertson, winning gold medals in each tournament.
Professional Career
The Minneapolis Lakers selected Jerry West with the second overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft. During the offseason, owner Bob Short moved the franchise from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. In his rookie season, West averaged 17.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. The Lakers, who went 25-50 the previous season, finished 36-43 and second in the NBA Western Division. The Lakers were defeated by the St. Louis Hawks in the division finals.
With the departure of teammate Elgin Baylor, who was drafted by the United States Army, West picked up the scoring slack during his second season in the league. West averaged 30.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, the first of four seasons in which he averaged at least 30 points. Longtime Lakers play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn dubbed West "Mr. Clutch."
Thanks to a first-round bye in the 1962 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers made the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. It was the start of what would go down as a legendary rivalry between the two basketball franchises. The Celtics defeated the Lakers in seven games.
The following season, Baylor returned to the Lakers, but that didn't slow West down. He averaged 27.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game before suffering a leg injury that sidelined him for 25 games. West returned in time for the 1963 NBA Playoffs, but it wasn't enough to defeat the Celtics in a Finals rematch.
With Baylor declining, West lead the Lakers in scoring with 28.7 points per game during the 1963-64 season. The Lakers struggled in the regular season, going 42-38 and losing in the first round to the Hawks.
In 1964-65, West averaged 31.0 points per game, second in the NBA behind Wilt Chamberlain. During the 1965 NBA Playoffs, Baylor suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of action in the first round against the Baltimore Bullets. With Baylor out, West carried the offensive load, averaging a NBA record 46.3 points in the series against the Bullets. West and the Lakers had enough to get past Baltimore but were defeated by the Celtics in five games in the NBA Finals. In 11 playoff games, West averaged 40.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
After West's breakout performance in the 1965 NBA Playoffs, he averaged a career-high 31.3 points along with 7.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. The Lakers defeated the Hawks in a seven-game series, setting up another showdown with the Celtics in the NBA Finals. In the decisive Game 7, the Celtics held off a late rally by the Lakers, denying West from a NBA Championship once again.
Injuries slowed down West in 1966-67, and he missed 15 games as a result. The San Francisco Warriors swept the Lakers in the first round of the 1967 NBA Playoffs. Head coach Fred Schaus retired and was replaced by Butch Van Breda Kolff. West missed another 31 games in 1967-68 but the Lakers went 52-30 and finished second in the Western Division. In the NBA Playoffs, the Lakers defeated the Chicago Bulls and the San Francisco Warriors, setting up a fifth battle against the Celtics. West sprained his ankle in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, hampering him the rest of the series. The Celtics defeated the Lakers in six games.
During the 1968 offseason, the Lakers traded for Philadelphia 76ers center Wilt Chamberlain. The addition of Chamberlain gave West and the Lakers another frontcourt weapon. West's scoring and rebound numbers took a dip with the addition of Chamberlain; he averaged just 25.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. West was selected to the Second Team of the inaugural NBA All-Defensive Team. The Lakers went 55-27 in the regular season and defeated the Atlanta Hawks and San Francisco in the playoffs, advancing to the NBA Finals against the Celtics for the sixth time in eight years. Behind West's 53 and 41 points in Game 1 and 2 respectively, the Lakers took a 2-0 lead in the series. After Boston rallied to tie the series, West injured his hamstring in Game 5. It wouldn't slow down West in Game 7, racking up a triple-double with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. Despite West's efforts, the Lakers lost 108-106. West was selected as the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, despite being a member of the losing team. He's the only player to achieve that accomplishment in the NBA Finals.
With Chamberlain out for nearly the entire 1969-70 season, Jerry West averaged 31.2 points, 7.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. The Lakers won their third consecutive Western Conference Championship and faced the New York Knicks, not the Celtics, in the NBA Finals. In Game 3 with the game tied at 100, Knicks forward Dave DeBusschere hit a jumper to put New York up 102-100 with seconds left in the game. With the Lakers out of timeouts, Chamberlain inbounded the pass to West, who made a 60-foot shot with time expired to force overtime. It would go down as one of the greatest moments in NBA Finals history. However, the Lakers would end up losing in overtime, 111-108, after West suffered a hand injury. In Game 5, Knicks center Willis Reed went down with a leg injury and he was expected to miss the rest of the NBA Finals. With Reed out, West and the Lakers appeared to be in control but behind 30 turnovers, Los Angeles blew a 13-point halftime lead, losing 107-100 to New York. The Lakers won Game 6 at home, setting up a Game 7 showdown at Madison Square Garden. Prior to the game, West received injections in his injured hands, but it was Reed's return that stole the show. Reed limped out on the Garden floor just prior to tip-off, giving the Knicks the emotional boost they needed. New York defeated Los Angeles 113-99.
During the 1970-71 season, West averaged 27.9 points, 9.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game before suffering a knee injury that caused him to miss the playoffs. Without West, and with Baylor injured, the Lakers lost in five games to the Milwaukee Bucks.
After considering retirement, West returned and played under new head coach Bill Sharman. The Lakers had one of their best seasons in franchise history, winning a NBA-record 33 games in a row. Los Angeles finished the season with a 69-13 record. West led the NBA in assists with 9.7 per game to go along with 25.8 points. After sweeping Chicago and defeating the Bucks in six games, the Lakers landed a rematch against the Knicks. Los Angeles would lose Game 1 but won four straight, giving West his first and only NBA Championship in eight attempts.
In 1972-73, West and the Lakers would meet the Knicks again in the NBA Finals after a 60-22 regular season record. West suffered a hamstring injury and the Knicks won in five games.
West's last season came in 1973-74. He still managed to average 20.3 points, 6.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game at the age of 36. In the Western Conference Semifinals, the Bucks defeated the Lakers in five games, ending the career of West. He ended his career as the all-time leading scorer in Lakers history with 25,192 points, a mark since passed by Kobe Bryant. West was a 14-time NBA All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team and three-time NBA All-Defensive team. In what might be the ultimate sign of respect, the NBA logo depicts a silhouette of West.
Post-Playing Career
Head Coach: Los Angeles Lakers (1976-1979)
After spending two years away from basketball, Jerry West returned in 1976 to become head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. In three seasons under West, the Lakers went 145-101 and returned to the NBA Playoffs after a two-year drought. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the Most Valuable Player in West's first season as head coach. West stepped down as head coach before the start of the 1979-80 season, and worked as a scout for the Lakers.
General Manager: Los Angeles Lakers (1982-2000)
In 1982, Jerry West was promoted to general manager, running the day-to-day operations and overseeing all player personnel decisions. West is credited as the mastermind for the Lakers dynasty in the 1980's. With the likes of Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, West and the Lakers won the NBA Championship in 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988.
During a rebuilding phase in the Lakers organization, West drafted Vlade Divac and Nick Van Exel. Under head coach Del Harris, the Lakers advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals in 1995 after winning 48 games. West was selected as the NBA's Executive of the Year.
In 1996, West worked out 17-year-old high school phenom Kobe Bryant prior to the NBA Draft. After watching Bryant in person, West traded starting center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte for Bryant's draft rights; Bryant had been selected by the Hornets with the 13th overall pick. Later that offseason, West signed free agent Shaquille O'Neal to a seven-year contract worth $121 million. Bryant and O'Neal, along with new head coach Phil Jackson, won three straight NBA Championships from 2000-2002. In August 2000, West stepped away from the Lakers organization.
President of Basketball Operations: Memphis Grizzlies (2002-2007)
The Memphis Grizzlies hired Jerry West as President of Basketball Operations in 2002. West hired Hubie Brown, who was broadcasting with TNT at the time, as head coach. Under West and Brown, the Grizzlies had their first winning season in franchise history in 2003-04, going 50-32 in the regular season. Brown won the NBA Coach of the Year Award and West was selected as NBA Executive of the Year. It was the first of three consecutive playoff appearances for the Grizzlies, but San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas swept Memphis in 2004, 2005, and 2006.
When Brown suddenly retired and returned to broadcasting, West hired Mike Fratello to take over as head coach. The Grizzlies had two winning seasons under Fratello but he was fired after a 6-24 start in the 2006-07 season. With star player Pau Gasol sidelined with a broken left foot, the Grizzlies finished the season 22-60, and West announced his resignation from the organization.
Jerry Alan West was born on May 28, 1938 in Cabin Creek, West Virginia to Cecil Sue and Howard Stewart West. West married his college sweetheart, Martha Jane Kane and the couple had three sons (David, Mark, Michael) together. After divorcing in 1976, West married his current wife, Karen, and they have two sons (Ryan and Jonnie) together. Jonnie played for the West Virginia basketball program.
Jerry West
Jerry West
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Jerry West
NBA at 50: Jerry West (biography)
Jerry West talks about African American basketball pioneers

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