Mr. Clutch with the Golden Touch: Jerry West’s Successes As An Executive
Throughout sports, front office positions are often made up of individuals with backgrounds in business, marketing, law, finances, statistics, physical therapy, psychology and other various college majors. However, most sports franchises, if not all sports franchises, seem to have a former player acting in a major position. In the sport of basketball, one former player that has had more impact on any team after their retirement would have to be former Los Angeles Lakers guard, Jerry Alan West. Jerry West could be the greatest former player to ever be a part of a front office of an organization.
To serve as sort of a reminder and give some background, as a player for the Lakers, West averaged 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. He shot 47% from the field and 81% from the free throw line over a 14 year career; clearly a hall of fame stat line. Other notable accolades West collected over his career include: 14-Time All Star, 10-Time All-NBA First Team, Scoring Champ, All-Star MVP, NBA Champion and the first ever Finals MVP, which he shockingly won after being a part of the losing team in that Finals.
As many will point out in “G. O. A. T.” arguments, West went one for eight in the NBA Finals, a case which West may have used in luring Durant to the Golden State Warriors this summer; you don’t want to be that guy that had a losing streak like that in the Finals. And yet, this player was dubbed “The Logo”, which the NBA today still has as its logo; pretty good for a guy that went one and eight in the finals. West would retire in 1974 from playing.
As a player, West held a role in only one of the Lakers’ titles. As an executive, he played a role in almost every title thereafter. After starting out as a scout for the Lakers in 1976, West was appointed general manager of the Lakers in 1979, a position he held until 2002 when he stepped down. That means West played a part in the drafting of Ervin “Magic” Johnson and “Big Game” James Worthy. He also helped sign Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal. Better yet, he facilitated the trade that brought Kobe Bryant to LA. Jerry West left his mark on a total of nine championships in Los Angeles.
West later moved onto Memphis, winning Executive of the Year in 2004, but stepped down in 2007 when his success in LA couldn’t be repeated. Jerry West would later be brought on as an executive board member of the Golden State Warriors in 2011. That team had recently traded Monta Ellis to Milwaukee and hired Mark Jackson as their new head coach. They also drafted Klay Thompson in 2011. West is still with the team and reportedly helped draft Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli in the 2012 draft. He also was somewhat involved in the signings of Shawn Livingston, Marreese Speights, and Leandro Barbosa. His biggest signing was 8-Time All Star and Olympic Gold Medalist, Andre Iguodola. Chalk up ring number ten West had a role in producing.
Of all the nicknames Jerry West has accumulated over his career (Mr. Outside, The Zeke from Cabin Creek, The Logo), the one that sticks out to me is “Mr. Clutch”. While no doubt clutch when he was a player, Jerry proved clutch off the court this offseason. He reportedly paid Kevin Durant a phone call after his last free agency meeting with another hopeful team. This phone call supposedly tipped the scales in the Warriors’ favor and was the last second shot in the game to win Kevin Durant. As an ESPN app commercial casually put it: “Clutch”.
Jerry West will go down as the probably the greatest NBA executive of the modern era. I would put him as the greatest executive in all of sports if not for the late-great Red Auerbach. Auerback helped in every Boston Celtics championship as coach and president up until his passing in 2006 (all but one of the seventeen). The bottom line still being: Jerry West is a champion, savant, and winner in all facets of the game. That’s true regardless of his Finals record. Jerry’s golden touch is still on the Golden State Warriors and is still impacting the landscape of the NBA.
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