Back in 1960, the then-Minneapolis Lakers selected guard Jerry West out of the West Virginia with the second overall pick in the NBA draft. West would go on to forever change the Lakers franchise which moved to Los Angeles later that year and the NBA for that matter, but things could’ve ended up much differently if the Hall of Famer had it his way as a rookie.
Apparently, West was excited at the prospect of playing for the New York Knicks. West believed he was on his way to Madison Square Garden on draft day, via Steven Marcus of Newsday:
“I thought I was going to be drafted by the Knicks,” the Lakers Hall of Famer said this past week. “I wanted very much to play in New York.”
The Lakers didn’t give the Knicks the opportunity to land West in the draft taking him one pick ahead of New York. Instead, the Knicks ended up with center Darrall Imhoff once both Oscar Robertson and West were off the board at one and two.
If West had fallen to the third pick in the draft back in 1960, the league might look entirely different today. For one, the NBA logo might not be a silhouette of West, but rather another star in the league like Wilt Chamberlain or Robertson. West may have never earned the nickname “Mr. Clutch” or be considered one of the greatest players of all time had he ended up in New York.
The West Virginia product eventually helped lead the Lakers to an NBA title in 1972 on one of the most dominant teams in league history alongside other greats like Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich and Pat Riley.
West also played a major part in the Lakers’ success after his playing days as the team’s general manager during the Showtime era as well as four years into the Shaq-Kobe era. As the Lakers GM, West brought Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to Los Angeles ultimately resulting in five championship banners being added to the rafters at the Great Western Forum and five more added to the Staples Center once the team moved there in 1999.
Without West heading to Los Angeles, the historic past of the franchise may have been nothing more than George Mikan winning titles in the 50’s and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar struggling to get it done on his own. West was also a mentor to current GM Mitch Kupchak whose kept on his legacy of making bold moves like landing Pau Gasol in a blockbuster trade in 2008.
Needless to say, West can be attributed to having a major role in the team’s success from 1960 onwards. Knicks fans can only fantasize about what might have been with West in New York rather than Los Angeles.[divide]