Golden State Warriors

Remembering Jerry West, an instrumental architect of Warriors' dynasty

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

If you’re a citizen of Dub Nation, you can appreciate Jerry West for securing and retaining the gift of Klay Thompson and whispering profoundly persuasive words into the ear of Kevin Durant.

If you live in Lakers Nation, you can thank West for drafting James Worthy, presiding over the Showtime era and securing teenage Kobe Bryant and veteran Shaquille O’Neal in the seismic summer of 1996.

If you’re a basketball fan, you simply appreciate Jerry West for being Jerry West.

West passed away Wednesday at age 86, and there was not one wasted year. He had done enough impactful work to last three lifetimes, transitioning from legendary player to legendary executive. No one in the NBA’s 78-year history achieved that dual goal at a higher level. He is enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame as a professional player, as a member of a gold-medal-winning Olympic team and finally, this summer, as a contributor.

He owned eight championship rings and is the only player in NBA Finals history to be on the losing team and still be voted winner of the Finals MVP award.

West earned the privilege of having his silhouette chosen in 1969 as the NBA logo – and having it remain so through the careers of such legends as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.

Though West is best known for his 40-year affiliation with the Lakers, his six seasons in Golden State’s front office were no less glorious.

Upon completing their purchase of the Warriors in 2010, CEO Joe Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber vowed to build a championship culture that would lift the franchise from NBA afterthought to league elite. Luring West six months later was a clear indication that they were serious.

“I'm really pleased that we were able to add someone the caliber of Jerry West to our organization,” Guber said when West was introduced to Bay Area media. “He has earned great respect in all circles, including the entire entertainment field. And his business savvy will serve us well and prove invaluable.

“Overall, his career has been nothing short of remarkable and his name alone has become synonymous with winning and success.”

West said he would not have joined the Warriors unless he was given assurances that his voice would be heard, and his opinions would carry weight. Within his first month, he was strongly advising the team – Larry Riley was the general manager, Bob Myers the assistant GM – to draft Thompson. They listened.

Three years later, when the Warriors were prepared to part with Thompson in a trade that would bring Kevin Love to Golden State, West was so firm in his opposition that he threatened to leave the franchise. First-year coach Steve Kerr was in alignment with West, so the Warriors dropped the proposal.

They listened. Again. Because no one talent evaluator in the modern era had a sharper eye for building a winner. Less than a year later, with the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Thompson lighting up defenses, the Warriors were hoisting their first championship trophy in 40 years.

“Jerry had a profound and immense impact on our franchise and was instrumental in our recent decade of success,” Lacob said Wednesday in a statement issued by the Warriors. “Personally, as a child, despite growing up a Celtics fan in Massachusetts, Jerry was my idol and I loved him. To me, he was basketball. He was not just about the actual game, but he personified competitiveness. He was the most competitive individual I have ever met, settling for nothing short of greatness. He had to win. It consumed him.

“He was bigger than life. He was an icon. We are devastated with today’s news of his passing and extend our prayers and support to his wife, Karen, his entire family and the NBA community.”

My every interaction with Jerry West was less of a conversation than a lesson. Asking him a question about the Warriors or basketball in general would lead to lengthy answer, his excitement evident, his pitch rising to higher and higher registers, streams of words sprinting off his tongue. He’d sprinkle a few profanities for emphasis.

Each time we spoke, I felt more educated. Any discussion about Curry and Thompson, individually or as a duo, you could feel West’s pulse racing. He adored them as men, loved them as players, revered them as shooters.

Jerry West oozed basketball and poured his heart into it. For all his successes, he was forever tortured by anything he regarded as failure. He never shook the memories of a childhood rife with abuse and neglect, so he became obsessive about chasing perfection.

It was an impossible mission that West came ever so close to achieving in basketball. May his accolades provide a comfortable resting place for man finally in the arms of serenity.

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