Longtime Lakers player, All-Star, and executive Jerry West, forever known as the Logo in the NBA, wasn’t pleased after discovering that Lakers owner Jeannie Buss had excluded him from her list of top 5 franchise legends.
What’s more surprising is a name that did claim one of the five spots.
Jeannie Buss, whose close partnership with Jerry West and her father Dr. Jerry Buss helped build the Lakers dynasty in the early 2000s, raised eyebrows when she chose current Laker LeBron James for the list over West. The remainder of the list included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, James, and former head coach Phil Jackson.
West, 82, responded in the Hoop du Jour podcast, hosted by another Hall of Famer, longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey.
“I saw the other day Jeanie Buss made a statement, the five most important Lakers. One of the most offensive things I’ve ever heard in my life. I was there a lot of times, had a lot of success,” West told Vescey. “Be curious to know if they would have had that success if I hadn’t been there.”
Drafted by owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1960, West played guard for the Lakers, garnering 14 All-Star selections and one championship in 1972. He retired with the Lakers in 1974.
LeBron is approaching three years with the Lakers since signing in June 2018. The team won the NBA Championship last year under his leadership.
As a key member of the Lakers front office Jerry West — a two-time NBA Executive of the Year — put the Lakers in position to acquire two names on Buss’s list, Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, along with a prime Shaquille O’Neal.
After a stint in Memphis, West joined the Golden State Warriors front office in 2011 and helped build a team that earned the franchise their first Larry O’Brien trophy in 40 years. Golden State repeated the following year, amounting to eight total championships won by West.
After the 2016-2017 season, West moved back to Los Angeles to join the Clippers as an executive board member. He helped rebuild the team after the departure of owner Donald Sterling. Going into the 2020-2021 playoffs, the Clippers are slated to be the third overall seed in the West, while the Lakers, led by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Jeannie Buss, hope that their play-in tournament chances pan out.
James’s legacy with the franchise will continue to grow and change well beyond his retirement, and Jerry West’s legacy should as well. West came from an era when franchise pride and cohesive locker rooms produced a fanfare that is hard to find in today’s audiences. League parity has benefitted from stars like LeBron, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Kawhi Leonard changing destinations in pursuit of contracts, championships, and more; however, the decline in viewership shows that fans aren’t sticking around once players decide to pack their bags and go.
Jerry West built a different legacy in the same town as LeBron, and only time will tell which name will outlast the other.
For the record, here’s the correct list:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Kobe Bryant
- Phil Jackson
- Magic Johnson
- Jerry West