Between the jerseys of Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson that hang in Crypto.com Arena’s rafters, there’s a purple and gold top with the No. 44 imprinted on the back that Jerry West used to wear during his 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
West won just one NBA title during his time with the franchise — but what a team he did it with. He shared the court with the likes of Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Pat Riley, and Gail Goodrich, which made up the famous 1971-72 Lakers.
That team remains perhaps the greatest side the Purple and Gold have ever assembled. West and Co. absolutely dominated their rivals, outscoring them by an average of 12.28 points — which to this day remains the highest margin of victory ever recorded in a single NBA season.
The 1971-72 Lakers were spectacular, perhaps just as spectacular as West’s fallout with the organization.
A few years ago, the 83-year-old executive board member of the L.A. Clippers reportedly disparaged the Purple and Gold in leaked voicemails that dated back to the memorable 2019 free agency, which starred Kawhi Leonard.
Then, Lakers president Jeanie Buss snubbed West when picking the franchise’s all-time most important members.
In the latest episode of the drama, West described his relationship with the Purple and Gold as “horrible” — and even said he wishes he had spent his career with another team in an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick:
“One disappointing thing (about my career) is that my relationship with the Lakers is horrible,” West, a Clippers consultant since June 2017, told The Athletic. “I still don’t know why. And at the end of the day, when I look back, I say, ‘Well, maybe I should have played somewhere else instead of with the Lakers, where someone would have at least appreciated how much you give, how much you cared.’”
West then claimed the Lakers have revoked his lifetime season ticket, promised to him by the late Dr. Jerry Buss. The 14-time All-Star added the franchise didn’t even notify him of the decision:
“It was a cold phone text to my wife,” West recalled. “No one had the nerve to call me, but that’s how petty they are, OK? And I love the Lakers, OK? I love to see them do well. It’s great for basketball. I’m proud of everything that happened when I was there. I’m proud of everything that happened when I wasn’t there — the positives.
“But sometimes you feel like you’re discarded, like a piece of trash. And there’s a couple of people over there — not Jeanie — but there’s a couple of people over there that, uh … I don’t get it. I don’t. … I always had a great relationship with Jeanie — at least I thought I did. I don’t know where it is now.”
West concluded his tell-all by saying the fallout with the Lakers has gone beyond the point of no return.
West hopes Clippers’ move away from Crypto.com Arena will allow them to build own identity
West has been one of the main architects behind the Clippers’ recent rise to the top, engineering the arrival of Leonard and Paul George almost three years ago.
The experienced executive said last year the next step in cementing the franchise’s place among the NBA’s powerhouses will be building its own identity. West hopes that will occur after Ty Lou’s team moves to Intuit Dome – the Clippers’ new home in Inglewood, set to open in 2024.
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