If there is one person who has helped make the Los Angeles Lakers the greatest franchise in NBA history, it has to be Jerry West. From 1960 until 2002 (42 years!!!), no single person has influenced Laker success more than “The Logo” himself.
Drafted number two overall out of West Virginia in the 1960 NBA Draft, West was clearly going to be a star in this league, having totaled 2,309 points during his collegiate career. Although he would only win one title during his tenure with the Lakers, his career is by no means a failure because of that. In the Lakers 1969 Finals loss to the Celtics, West was crowned the Finals MVP, and is the only player in history to accomplish that feat from a losing team.
With career averages of 27 points per game on 47% shooting, West was truly an NBA warrior. At 6’2, he was a great rebounder for his diminutive size, averaging almost six per game for his career, and despite his high scoring numbers, he was able to find his teammates as well, averaging 6.7 assists per game over the course of his career.
Apart of the Lakers team that won 33-games in a row and won the first title while in Los Angeles, West enjoyed a more than successful career as a player, however, he continued to have a hand in the team’s success, even after his retirement in 1974.
Three years after his retirement, West was named head coach of the Lakers. Although he never was able to coach the Lakers to a title, he finished his coaching stint with a 141-101 record and made the playoffs in each of the three years he was on the sidelines.
Following his time as head coach, West worked as a scout for the Lakers for three seasons until he was named the team’s General Manager prior to the 1982-83 season. In the 19 years that he held the post, West helped build the Showtime team of the 80’s and in the summer of 1996, he made his final mark as the Lakers GM by signing Shaquille O’Neal and trading for Kobe Bryant. Along with a few other moves, which included the hiring of Phil Jackson in 1999, West had set a rock solid foundation for the franchise, which would go on to win five championships in 11 seasons.
After the Lakers capped off their historic three-peat in 2002, West left the Lakers organization to manage the Memphis Grizzlies in attempt to build a winning franchise from the bottom up.
Drafting Jerry West was the best move the Lakers could have made, but keeping him around is what has made this franchise the greatest in NBA history.