They call him, “The Logo”
The NBA just finished their summer schedule in Las Vegas. The schedule gave coaches, scouts and team executives time to evaluate the rookies they had signed and free agents they traded for. Unfortunately, from everything I read, at least this summer, the class failed.
But you know, I have been reading a lot about rookies of the past who have gone on to not only make a lasting impression, but have contributed long after their playing days were over. I have also read about rookies who have turned out to be duds.
Probably, the man who has contributed the most to the game, is the man they call among other things “The Logo”. Jerry West is that guy!
Many do not know it, but the NBA Logo is actually Jerry West in action. It is his silhouette! It’s interesting to learn that although his picture is the NBA’s most enduring monument, he was never the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Jerry grew up in West Virginia and was drafted out of the University of West Virginia in 1960, the second overall. I personally interfaced with Jerry when I was with the Lakers as an Executive in 1971- 72.
That was the season that the Lakers won 33 straight games (a record that still stands forty three years later) and brought Los Angeles its first NBA Championship. It was a great team… with an outstanding group of young men.
At the top of it all, was its captain, Jerry West.
Anchored by the great Wilt Chamberlain in the middle and Gail Goodrich alongside as the other guard, the Lakers were unbeatable. When Gail was out for an extended part of the season with a stomach injury, Jerry did everything to insure victory with the exception of mopping the floors before and after each game. If called upon to that by Jack Kent Cooke, the owner, he would have done that was well.
It was also the spawning ground for another great coach to be, The Lakers sixth man in 1971-72, Pat Riley.
My pal Rene Henry whom I consider the historian of all things University of West Virginia, including not only Jerry, but Hot Rod Hundley, points out that Jerry, although he had marvelous stats throughout his career, was never the NBA’s MVP.
Yet, he holds countless other accolades. In the 1959 NCAA Championships he was MVP. In the draft that year, the Minneapolis Lakers drafted him second. He played his entire career, 14 years, with the Lakers and before his first game, the Lakers moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles.
Ironically, for three years in a row, 1957, 58 and 59, future Lakers won the NCAA tournament MVP award. It was Wilt Chamberlain in 1957, Elgin Baylor in 1958 and Jerry in 1959.
Jerry was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.
He won four NBA Championships as Lakers General Manager, Captained our Olympic Gold Medal Team in 1960, averaged 29.1 points in 153 playoff games, was a 14 time All-Star and is considered one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.
As if that wasn’t enough, his contribution to professional basketball lasts. While with the Lakers, the team continued to be winners and champions. Phil Jackson, who has proven to be an exceptional coach, has been given credit for much of the Lakers’ success… and he deserves it.
Not to take anything away from Phil, but for the most part it was Jerry along with Bill Bertka, the great scout who long before computerized drafting, ran the nation’s foremost collegiate scouting service. Together they put the teams together.
In the years when Phil didn’t have the horses, as was seen in both Chicago and Los Angeles and now in New York, he wasn’t winning. Unlike Red Auerbach, the Celtics Coach who won year in and year out even with a rag tag grouping.
Jerry today is still active in Basketball as a consultant. He left the Lakers to first work with the Memphis Grizzlies and over the past three years with the Golden State Warriors.
Guess what! Both those teams have been built into championship contenders with Golden State winning it all this year.
Over the years, Jerry has been called Mr. Clutch, Zeke from Cabin Creek and The Logo. Upon review, I think, without a doubt, he is “Mr. Basketball”.