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Basketball player Jerry Alan West, born May 28, 1938, on Cabin Creek, Kanawha County, is widely regarded as the best athlete West Virginia has produced.

West led East Bank High School to the state basketball championship in 1956 and then rewrote the record book at West Virginia University. As a sophomore, he played forward on the team that finished No. 1 in the nation at the end of the regular season in 1958. He was named most valuable player of the NCAA tournament in 1959, when he led the Mountaineers to within two points of the national championship. He was a second-team All- American in 1958 and unanimous first-team choice in 1959 and 1960. He co-captained the undefeated U.S. Olympic team in 1960.

In his 14-year career as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers, West played in 14 all-star games and was named most valuable player in 1972. He was named to the league’s first team 10 times. He was named most valuable player of the league playoffs in 1969. He led the league in scoring in 1970, and his 63 points in one game in 1962 stood for many years as the record for guards. West became only the third player to score more than 25,000 points, and his 29.1 scoring average in the playoffs is still among the highest in NBA history. He played a key role in the 1972 NBA championship as a player. As a Laker administrator, he had a hand in four others. He coached the Lakers for three years and was special consultant and general manager before becoming president. His silhouette appears on the NBA logo.

West played much bigger than his six foot three inches and 175 pounds. His style embodied pure shooting form, grace, intelligence, quickness, exceptional leaping ability and, above all, a determination to win that contributed to his nickname ‘‘Mr. Clutch.’’ West was named to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980 and to the inaugural class of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Also in that year he was inducted into the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni. West retired from the Lakers in 2000. He became president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA in 2002, bringing him closer to friends and family in West Virginia. He retired from the Grizzlies in 2007. In 2009, West opened a restaurant, Prime 44 West at the The Greenbrier. His autobiography, West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life, was published in 2011.

 

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This Article was written by Norman Julian

Last Revised on December 09, 2015

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Sources

Julian, Norman. Legends: Profiles in West Virginia University Basketball. Morgantown: Trillium Pub., 1998.

West Virginia University Basketball Media Guide. 1998-1999.

Cite This Article

Julian, Norman "Jerry West." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 09 December 2015. Web. 10 December 2018.

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