Jeanie Buss might have made a big mistake a few weeks ago, leaving Hall of Famer Jerry West off of her top-5 Lakers list. In a nutshell, Buss did not believe that Jerry West contributed enough to the iconic Purple and Gold franchise. While there have been some incredible Lakers including Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson who deserve top billing, it is harsh to not even consider West for that honor.
Buss mentioned LeBron James on her list, a player who has only played a total of 3 seasons with the franchise. James won an NBA title with the franchise last year, but he is mainly known as the star for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. It is unbelievable that Buss will consider LeBron over West, a guard who played his entire career with the Lakers. Not to mention, West was a very successful GM for many years. It is time to make the case for the logo and explain why Jerry West is a top-5 Laker of all time.
5. A Superstar Player For Over A Decade
Jerry West has a case for being called "Mr. Laker". Even though that title rightfully belongs to Kobe Bryant or Magic Johnson, Jerry West deserves credit for his longevity. West played 14 seasons with the Lakers, logging an average of around 39.2 MPG. West is one of the top-5 shooting guards to have ever lived and he was a dominant player consistently for the Lakers.
West averaged 27.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.7 APG, and 2.6 SPG during his entire career. He was also one of the greatest shooters of his time, nailing 47.4% of his shots from the field and 81.4% of his free throws. These are exceptional shooting numbers for a player that ranks 3rd all-time among Lakers in scoring per game (behind Shaquille O'Neal and Elgin Baylor). West was an unstoppable force on offense and was a tremendous leader, so how come he doesn't earn a top-5 spot on Jeanie's list?
4. The Logo For A Reason
Jerry West became the logo of the NBA for a reason. He was the model of consistency as a player, and actually improved his game with age. But the story behind West becoming the logo is quite complicated, but the designer felt his style and grace was perfect for the NBA. And for how long the logo has been synonymous with the league, it is hard to argue that it looks good.
It is only natural for the logo of the NBA to be a Laker because that might be the highest honor for any basketball star. The Lakers are the most famous basketball franchise and for a star like West to not be recognized as a top-5 Laker despite being on the face of everything relating to the NBA is very harsh and unfair. Kobe Bryant's tragedy is making everyone think about changing the logo, but until then, West is the man.
3. Loyalty To The Lakers Despite His Finals Record
Jerry West made a total of 9 NBA Finals appearances with the Lakers. That is an extraordinary number for a 6'2" guard who was almost always the best player on the team. Many will point to the fact that he has 8 losses out of those 9 appearances, but he captured the NBA title in 1972. Pair that with 12 All-NBA appearances and 14 All-Star Teams makes him an iconic Lakers legend.
Making an All-Star Team every season for a career with a franchise is nothing to sniff at, and West was the third player in history at the time to score 25,000 points. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson were ahead of him in that regard. Not to mention, West was known as "Mr. Clutch". West hit the most unlikeliest of clutch shots with a 60-foot game-winner in Game 3 of the 1970 Finals. West put his heart and soul for the Lakers franchise and his smooth jumper will always be a part of Lakers lore.
2. Greatness As A GM: Jerry West Was Catalyst For Showtime
Jerry West was a Hall of Fame player and one of the best guards to have ever lived. But he might have been as equally great as an executive. With Jerry West at the helm, the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty of the 1980s was born. The Lakers drafted Magic Johnson with the No.1 overall pick and the rest was history. Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the Lakers won 5 NBA titles with Jerry West as the executive.
Jerry West built a dominant team around Magic Johnson, including top talents such as Michael Cooper and James Worthy. West was as shrewd of an operator as there was in the NBA, and he will go down as one of the best managers in sports history. It is hard to imagine the Showtime Lakers without Jerry West pulling the strings and building a dynasty, and he wouldn't be done there.
1. Jerry West Was The Force Behind Acquiring Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
The greatest accomplishment of Jerry West’s career was the acquisition of Kobe Bryant, a raw shooting guard with incredible potential. Of course, West would go on to sign free agent superstar Shaquille O’Neal to a max contract.
West took a chance on a high school kid who went to the league in 1996. Everyone knew Bryant was extremely talented, but he was only 18 years old and just looked like a kid. It is no wonder Bryant only played 15.5 MPG and averaged 7.6 PPG in his rookie year. But Kobe took a leap the next year, making his first of 18 All-Star Team appearances.
Of course, Kobe and a dominant Shaquille O'Neal would go on to make 4 NBA Finals and win 3 NBA championships. It was Jerry West who founded the nucleus of the Lakers Dynasty in the 2000s, and that alone gives West an argument for being a top-5 Laker. Even after trading Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat, Kobe would win 2 more NBA titles and cement his legacy as the greatest Laker ever. Without Jerry West, there is no Kobe Bryant in Purple and Gold and that means West must be mentioned among the top-5 Lakers greats ahead of LeBron James.