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Former LA Laker Jerry West passed away at 86


NBA ALL-STAR Jayson Tatum = at # 3 overall = the right choice - (Erik Drost photo)


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Bill Russell is seen here in the green uniform guarding Wilt Chamberlain. They had some of the NBA's most classic battles. Russell sadly passed away Sunday at the age of 88 - (US Library of Congress image)



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If anyone was most responsible for Jerry West's Lakers teams losing the big NBA finals games to the Celtics it was Bill Russell. "If I could have one wish granted, " Russell said to West at an affair, "It would be that you would always be happy." - In a previous column about West I wrote that Russell never got his wish. I also never saw a happy Jerry West. That is UNTIL… - THIS DAY IN THE NBA - NBA's ALL TIME BEST PLAYERS 1st and 2nd TEAMS


Wednesday June 12, 2024


Just 15 days after his 86th birthday former LA Laker Jerry West passed away. You won't hear the warm syrupy comments from me as you have probably read from other scribes. The reason why is I never felt the warm fuzzies from West. As a matter of fact, our first and only verbal encounter is a scorching memory. The problem is I never figured out why.

Here's the drift, I'm not a cheerleader like most scribes. I'm not one to eat shit and die, that's the Israel's game on the Palestinians. I've been recognized as a lot of things but one thing never… being Palestinian. I'm in the Howard Cosell business of telling it like it is.

I've written about this before but for reminders what happened is in my first full year in sports journalism I did a lot of stories about International players. That season the Lakers drafted Vlade Divac. Following a Lakers game I approached West in the Lakers locker room and asked him about Divac. "Everybody knew about Vlade," he squealed loudly.

Although I was embarrassed in front of a number of media types I sucked it up and moved on, never to approach him again. What went through my mind is WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM?

I thought I was the only tuna thrown back into to sea by West. That is until I read a column by then LA Times sports columnist Mark Heisler. I felt that Heisler was the best sports scribe in the business the way he mixed dry humor in with facts. His column was a must read for me.

Then one day I read Heisler's column ironically also in 1990 asking West about Divac. Heisler had a similar reaction to Zeke from Cabin Creek (West) when he described him perfectly. Since I was a musician, I felt he described West in the most melodic manner possible. Heisler wrote: West was strung like a violin so tight that a puff of air could produce a high C.

As strange as it may sound, I can't think of West without thinking about his teammate Elgin Baylor. I've seen both play from their rookie years. Yes… I'm a seasoned soon to be 83.

The point being those that have such high praise for West now most likely never saw him play a game. West retired in 1974, two seasons after he won his first title with the team after years and more years trying.

West and Baylor both experienced the same pain losing to a Boston Celtics team that won the title 10 of 11 seasons excluding 1967 when the Philadelphia 76ers won the title.

During the 60's the Lakers faced the Celtics six times in the finals and lost EVERY TIME. West was called many things, "Mr. Clutch" being one of them. The demons seemed to have been at work every time the Lakers met the Celtics in the finals.

In the 1971-72 season Baylor's knees were so painful he retired eight games into the campaign. Ironically a young Jim McMillan filled in an played superbly helping West become a member of his first and only title winning team as a player.

West recalled the experience, "I played terrible basketball in the finals, and we won," West said. "That didn't seem to be justice for me personally, because I had contributed so much in other years when we lost. Now when we won, I was just another piece of machinery. And after all of those disappointments, once we won I was like, 'Is that all there is?'

He reflected in previous seasons losing to the Celts, "Most of the years we played [the Celtics] they were better than we were but in 1969 they were not better. Period." NBA.com reported West as saying. "I don't care how many times we played it they weren't better. We were better and we didn't win. And that was the toughest one."

He retired from the NBA as a player after the 1972-73 season in which the Lakers lost again to the Knicks in the finals. He was out of the game entirely for two years. West was intense and said of his NBA playing career, "I don't think I ever smiled in a basketball game. To me it was a matter of life and death."

Though he could only win the NBA title once in nine tries West still holds the NBA record for points per game average in a playoff series. He averaged 46.3 a game [49-52-44-48-43-42] over a six game series with the Baltimore Bullets in 1965. Michael Jordan's 45.2 average vs Cleveland in 1988 is the NBA's second best.

West's career scoring best was a 63-point game against the Knicks in 1963. He finished his NBA playing career scoring 25,192 points and was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1979.

Former Celtic great Bill Russell, the player/coach of the 69 Celtic team made a profound statement to West at testimonial the Lakers organized near the end of Zeke's career. Russell even went as far as to pay for his own air ticket to attend the event. If anyone was most responsible for West's Lakers teams losing the big NBA finals games to the Celtics it was Russell.

"If I could have one wish granted, " Russell said to West at the affair, "It would be that you would always be happy."

In my previous column about West I wrote that Russell never got his wish, I never saw a happy Jerry West. That is UNTIL I saw a pod cast hosted by LA Clipper Paul George. I WAS SHOCKED!

George did a commendable job hosting the show of 1 hour and 44 minutes with West as his guest smiling and relaxed throughout. That was the first time I've seen West smile. It was uploaded JUNE 13, 2023 almost to the day of West's death.

George listened intently and asked intelligent questions and made astute comments. He had West relaxed which is when a host is doing his job the best. West was brilliant sharing his thoughts and experiences with George. I recommend this show as a MUST WATCH.

Prior to that I saw a different West than the one I experienced. The first was when he was a speaker at the revealing of Elgin Baylor's statue in front of the then Staple's Arena. West was smiling and had praise for Baylor.

Musician Bill Withers was also a guest speaker. He was a close friend of Baylor's and claimed that he grew up with West in West Virginia.

That relationship got me to thinking and investigating. I searched You Tube and came across a video about West's upbringing.

His father was very strict. West found his solace playing basketball. The result is West made lemonade out of his lemon life with his father. He became so skilled it eventually led to him becoming an NBA Hall of Fame player.

The other positive is I better understood West's behavior. I understood why he was strung so tight that a puff of air could produce a high C out of him.

It appears that in his final years the Russell got his wish. Apparently West reached a point where he found peace with himself. That was evident in the Pail George podcast.

With that we say all's well that ends well Jerry… RIP


Jerry West Opens Up About NBA Legacy, Kobe Relationship, Difficult Childhood & More


JUNE 13, 2023 - RELEASED

1 HR & 44 MIN

Podcast P with Paul George

723K subscribers

In this week's episode of Podcast P, we're joined by NBA Legend Jerry "The Logo" West as he explains his current role with the Clippers and shares his thoughts on the modern evolution of basketball. Jerry opens up about his biggest inspirations, including one of the toughest moments he's had to overcome in his life, and one of the best moments of his career as an NBA exec. Then we hear stories from Jerry about his relationship with Kobe Bryant, and reveals an interesting conversation that took place during Jerry's time with the Memphis Grizzlies. Finally Jerry gets real about being The Logo, why he loves players like Giannis, and why he can't stand the GOAT conversation that happens in basketball.


June 12, 1984 Cedric Maxwell scored 24 points and Boston outrebounded Los Angeles 52-33 to beat the Lakers 111-102 in a Game 7 Finals showdown at Boston Garden, giving the Celtics their 15th NBA Championship.

June 12, 1991 The Chicago Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 108-101 at the Great Western Forum to capture the NBA Finals in five games. NBA Finals MVP Michael Jordan scored 30 points and teammate Scottie Pippen hit for 32. It was the Bulls’ first-ever NBA title in their 25th anniversary season in the league. Magic Johnson’s 20 assists were one shy of his own NBA Finals record.

June 12, 2000 Philadelphia's Eric Snow was named the winner of the 1999-2000 NBA Sportsmanship Award, which honors a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.

June 12, 2002 With a 113-107 victory at New Jersey, the Los Angeles Lakers completed a sweep of the 2002 NBA Finals and won their third consecutive title. The Lakers became the fifth team in NBA history to win at least three straight titles. With the victory, Coach Phil Jackson tied Red Auerbach’s mark of nine titles. With 34 points, MVP Shaquille O’Neal set the mark for most points (145) in a four-game Finals series, eclipsing Hakeem Olajuwon’s 131, which he set in 1995 against O’Neal-led Orlando.


1st Team
2nd Team
Larry Bird
Elgin Baylor
Julius Erving
Bill Russell
Wilt Chamberlain
Michael Jordan
Step Curry
Magic Johnson
Oscar Robertson
11th & 12th MAN SUBSTITUTES & Coach


On October 29, 1996 In conjunction with the NBA’s 50th anniversary celebration, the list of The 50 Greatest Players in NBA History was announced. It included: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nate Archibald, Paul Arizin, Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Billy Cunningham, Dave DeBusschere, Clyde Drexler, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, George Gervin, Hal Greer, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Earvin Johnson, Sam Jones, Michael Jordan, Jerry Lucas, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, George Mikan, Earl Monroe, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, Bob Pettit, Scottie Pippen, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Bill Russell, Dolph Schayes, Bill Sharman, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld, Bill Walton, Jerry West, Lenny Wilkens, and James Worthy




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