GM Profiles in Excellence: Jerry West

What can we say about the Logo that hasn’t already been said? The high watermark of giving your all to a franchise and to the sport, Jerry West,is the measuring stick for players and executives alike.
Photo: Rob Poetsch / Creative Commons

Most fans will know The Logo best for his work as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers for fourteen years. A big guard with an ability to hit clutch shots from the outside when it mattered, he was a fourteen-time All-Star, one time NBA champion with the Lakers, with a finals MVP to his name as well. His silhouette graces every single NBA game as well, as it was his dribbling motion that was lifted for the NBA logo.

But after retirement as an active player, he would remain heavily involved in the Lakers organization, working as a scout, coach, and eventually, GM. It was in the General Manager’s office however, that he’d make his biggest impact.

Magic Johnson, who everyone could see was going to be a franchise star for the Lakers, was agitated playing under current head coach Paul Westhead. Jerry Buss tried to appoint Jerry West head coach, but West instead took the job of assistant coach, and deferred to one of the assistant coaches under Westhead, Pat Riley.

Under Riley and Magic Johnson, the Showtime Lakers would become one of the dominant teams of the 1980s, revitalizing the sport. West was just as effective in the manager’s office however, acquiring players like Byron Scott, and able to find value in the draft, adding key championship players, A.C. Green and James Worthy. By only adding players carefully, West was able to maintain a balance on the Lakers that ensured Magic was happy, the team continued to win, and to play Showtime basketball.
Photo: Wikimedia

After Riley left Los Angeles, West started to rebuild the Lakers around Nick Van Exel and Vlade Divac, two players West had acquired through the draft. However, the team failed to reach the heights that it had once reached. Under new head coach Del Harris, the team started to post winning records again, but West was prepared to make big moves to make the team relevant again.

In the 1996 off season, Jerry West and Jerry Buss were able to lure highly coveted free agent Shaquille O’Neal to Los Angeles, in one of the biggest free agent deals of all time. To make space, starting center Vlade Divac was dealt to Charlotte in exchange for their first round pick in 1996. West and his scouting team looked at the draft carefully, and asked Charlotte to select Kobe Bryant – a player the Hornets at the time, were not even considering scouting.

While Kobe began to emerge as a star guard, and Shaq turned in All-Star performances year after year, the Lakers still needed something to help them get over the hump. At this point, the Lakers organization was aware that six-time champion Phil Jackson would be available. Without pause, Jackson was able to lead Los Angeles to a three-peat.

Photo: The Monticola

However, West would leave by this time, joining Memphis as a GM, and hoping for a new challenge. Though the Grizzlies were unable to match the Laker’s ability, the moves he made were able to set the foundation for Memphis’s current success.

Today West is a consultant with the Golden State Warriors, and minority owner of the team, though his heart, undoubtedly, resides in LA.


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