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Jerry West dead at 86: Lakers legend whose silhouette remains the NBA’s logo passes away with wife Karen by his side

Jerry West, the basketball legend whose silhouette still serves as the NBA’s logo, has died at the age of 86. The Los Angeles Clippers announced the news on Wednesday, stating that West’s wife Karen was by his side.

West is best known for being the driving force behind the Los Angeles Lakers teams of the 1960s, winning his first and only NBA title in 1972, and assembling future championship teams as an executive.

News of West’s death sparked an immediate outpouring of grief from the basketball world, including ESPN anchor Mike Greenberg.

“I’m sorry I’m the one to have to tell you,” Greenberg told his ESPN audience on Wednesday. “One of the greatest figures in the history of American sports, one of the greatest players and one of the most important people in the history of basketball in this or any country has passed away. Jerry West has passed away at the age of 86.”

With the Lakers in the 1980s, West oversaw five championship teams before laying the foundation for three more titles (2000-2002) by signing Shaquille O’Neal and acquiring Kobe Bryant in a draft-day trade in 1996.

West shoots a free throw during a 1971 game against the Knicks at the Great Western Forum

West shoots a free throw during a 1971 game against the Knicks at the Great Western Forum

The second overall pick in the 1960 draft, West was named to 14 All-Star teams during his career, averaging 27 points per game.

He then had an unsuccessful three-year stint as Lakers head coach before taking on a scouting role and subsequently becoming the team’s general manager.

West was credited with helping the Lakers win three straight titles between 2000 and 2002 with Bryant and O’Neal on their roster with Phil Jackson as coach.

He played a key role in the trade for Bryant after originally being selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 draft, using Vlade Divac as bait to land the 17-year-old phenom.

West left the Lakers to become general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002 before retiring five years later.

West joined the Memphis Grizzlies front office in 2002 before earning his seventh and eighth managerial titles with Golden State in 2015 and 2017.

He joined the Clippers board in 2017 and helped successfully recruit two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard as a free agent in 2020.

West then joined the Golden State Warriors as a member of the board of directors in 2011 and the franchise won its first championship in 40 years in 2015.

The iconic NBA logo was created using the silhouette of Lakers legend Jerry West

The iconic NBA logo was created using the silhouette of Lakers legend Jerry West

The current NBA logo was created by Alan Siegel in 1969 by incorporating West’s silhouette from a photo taken by Wen Roberts.

The logo was modeled after that of Major League Baseball, a silhouette of a player many mistakenly believe to be Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew. (The image is probably a composite of several players in the late 1960s).

The West logo debuted in 1971.

West, a Hall of Fame player with the Lakers, coached the team for a few unsuccessful seasons in the late 1970s before eventually putting together the team that won three straight titles in the early 2000s.

While general manager of the Lakers in the mid-1990s, West traded star center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for the draft rights to a 17-year-old Bryant.

Bryant rewarded West by winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award as a rookie and eventually becoming an 18-time All-Star.

West later described himself as Bryant’s surrogate father because of their close bond.

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