Lakers’ LeBron James and Others Pay Tribute to Jerry West, Whose Legacy Lives on as the NBA Logo, But His Story Also Includes a Troubled Past

Lakers’ LeBron James pays Tribute to nba legend Jerry West, Whose Legacy Lives on as the NBA Logo, But His Story Also Includes a Troubled Past

Tributes poured in on June 12 after news of Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West’s death surfaced. A cause of death was not immediately released. He was 86.

West, who departed from the Lakers after the 1999-2000 season due to pressures that impacted his health, received a flurry of tributes from NBA greats, including LeBron James, who has been with the Lakers since 2018.

“Will truly miss our convos my dear friend! My thoughts and prayers goes out to your wonderful family! Forever love Jerry! Rest in Paradise my guy,” four-time NBA champion LeBron James wrote on X. Although James and West played in different eras and never overlapped during West’s time working in the Lakers front office, the pair of basketball icons have always had a deep admiration for each other.

Lebron James pays tribute to Lakers Legend Jerry West
The Lakers’ LeBron James (left) pays tribute to franchise great Jerry West (right), whose passing was announced on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photos: @Kingjames/Instagram, @officialjerrywest/Instagram)

Jerry West is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history, winning one championship as a player with the Lakers before later becoming the architect of the franchise’s 1980s “Showtime” dynasty. West, who broke his nose over nine times as a player in the league, won eight NBA titles as a front office executive, winning six with the Lakers and two with the Golden State Warriors.

Some of his most memorable moves as an executive included overseeing the Lakers acquisitions of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. West pulled off the now-infamous moves over a one-week span in 1996, which became the foundation of a different iteration of a Lakers’ dynasty.

West’s silhouette is the inspiration behind the NBA’s logo.

James also described West as a mentor and a friend. “My mentor, My friend! Hopefully I continue to make you proud! You’re already missed!” he wrote.

In 2022, West lauded James and described him as a “Swiss Army knife.”

“I greatly admire what he’s accomplished,” West said of James at the time. “It’s hard for me to believe that someone doesn’t recognize his greatness. This guy does everything. He’s a Swiss Army knife. And he’s competitive as hell. Frankly, I wish people would leave him alone.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver commended West for his achievements both on the basketball court and in the front office.

“Jerry’s four decades with the Lakers also included a successful stint as a head coach and a remarkable run in the front office that cemented his reputation as one of the greatest executives in sports history,” Silver said in a statement. “I valued my friendship with Jerry and the knowledge he shared with me over many years about basketball and life.”

NBA great Michael Jordan weighed in on the legendary basketball figure’s passing. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said Jordan texted him a statement about West, in which he said he was “deeply saddened” after he learned of the passing.

“I am so deeply saddened at the news of Jerry’s passing. He was truly a friend and a mentor. Like an older brother to me,” Jordan said, via Smith. “I always wish I could have played against him as a competitor, but the more I came to know him, I wish I had been his teammate … Rest in Peace, Logo.”

West’s lengthy list accomplishments included being named to 14-time NBA All-Star teams. He was also a 12-time All-NBA selection during his standout playing career. West retired in 1974, and two years later he became the Lakers head coach.

After three years of coaching, West transitioned to the front office.

Other prominent basketball figures reacted to the news of West’s passing.

“The passing of Jerry West was a shock. The LOGO impacted every aspect of our sport. As a player, evaluator of talent, a GM and as president of the Grizzlies. We spent time together there and I learned more of him then,” former Kentucky men’s basketball coach and current Arkansas head coach John Calipari said.

“It’s because of Jerry West that there was even “Showtime.” It’s because of you that I am who I am today. You believed in me when no one else did, and for that, I’m forever grateful. You will always be my “Basketball Dad”. I love you Logo my heart is broken. You will be missed,” former NBA player Byron Scott wrote. Scott won three NBA titles with Lakers during the franchise’s iconic “Showtime” era in the 1980s.

Former Lakers star Pau Gasol, who won a pair of NBA championships alongside Kobe Bryant, also offered his condolences.

“Rest in peace, dear Jerry. Thank you for everything you have done and given to this game,” Gasol wrote.

But away from the basketball court, West battled personal troubles. In his memoir “West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life,” which was released in 2011, he detailed periods of his life where he battled abuse and depression.

In the candid account of his life, West detailed how he was physically abused as a child. He also opened up about the vitriol he had for his father, so much so that he would often keep a gun near his bed and even entertained the idea of using the weapon against his dad.

West had a close relationship with his older brother Army Sgt. David West, who died in combat in the Korean War in 1951. Losing his brother was something West said he struggled to deal with throughout his life. West also battled clinical depression, and at one point, he was taking Prozac on a daily basis.

West’s ex-wife previously described him as “the saddest man she had ever met.” She even wrote a letter to then-Lakers owner Jerry Buss, warning him that West was a “very tormented individual.”

West is survived by his wife Karen, with whom he shares two sons. West also had three sons with his first wife, Martha.

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