The Lakers have had many stars and legends pass through the locker room, but one stands atop them all, Jerry West. No, Jerry West isn’t the best Laker of all time, but he is above them all for one simple reason — he is the NBA logo. It’s crazy that a player who averaged 27 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.8 rebounds a game ends up fourth on the teams all-time list, but it’s the Lakers.
Looking at the all-time leaders for the Lakers, Jerry West ranks among the top in many of them. He was third in games played, minutes played, field goals attempted, field goals made, minutes per game, and points per game. Is third not good enough for you? Well, West ranked second in free throws attempted, free throws made, assists, points, and win shares. To top it all off, Jerry West is the all-time Lakers leader in OWS (Offensive Win Shares), and if they had kept track back then, most likely steals (which I’ll get into later).
Lets keep it rolling. Jerry West made 14 All-Star appearances — with one MVP –, won one NBA Championship, was a Finals MVP without winning the title, was First Team All-NBA eight times, Second Team twice, First All-Defensive Team four times, and Second Team once. That’s not all, though. West led the league in free throws attempted twice, free throws made twice, points per game once, assists per game once, PER twice, TS% (True Shooting Percentage) twice, OWS three times, and Win Shares once. I think it’s safe to say Jerry West was pretty good back in the day.
When talking about the best scorers of all-time, Jerry West has to be in the discussion. First off, his nickname was Mr. Clutch, and secondly, he scored 40+ plus thirteen (!!) times in one season. He averaged over 30 points four times in his career, and the first time was his second season in the league. Not only was he a good scorer, but he was pretty efficient, as well. He averaged 20.4 shots in his career, but shot 47.4 percent (Kobe’s is 45.4 percent).
Not only was Mr. Clutch an amazing scorer, but he is one of the best defenders of all-time, as well. ProHoopsHistory had a great article on what West’s steals per game would like had they been tracked. The article basically projects how many steals Jerry West would average during his career. Based off of the projections, West would have averaged 3.36 steals for his career; the next highest average is 2.71 by Alvin Robertson. If you think that’s insane, here’s an excerpt from the book “Jerry West: the Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon”:
“Lakers scorekeeper John Radcliffe said that if steal stats had been kept for West’s career, he would easily be the league’s all-time leader, with little hope of anyone catching him. In his prime, there were many nights where he registered 6 or more steals, and many other nights where he had more than 10, explained Radcliffe, who closely observed nearly every home game that West ever played.”
Read that excerpt again. Six to ten steals a game. Not two or three games, ONE GAME. For his career, West would have a grand total of 3,129 steals in just 932 games. To put that in perspective, Chris Paul, who is one of the best defenders in the league, averages 2.4 steals a game for his career. He has played 555 games so far, so a little over half of what West played, but he’s only at 1,331 total steals. Again, these are all based off of projections, but that’s still incredible to me.
Not only is Jerry West a great player, but he is also a great manager. He was one of the creators of the Lakers of the 1980’s, which won five championships. After that, West traded for Kobe Bryant on draft night in 1996 and signed Shaquille O’Neal in free agency. That team went on to win three championships, as most of you already know.
After his time with the Lakers, West went to the Memphis Grizzlies and was able to win his second Executive of the Year award. Not long after that, West retired, but soon after became a head consultant for the Golden State Warriors. During his time there, the Warriors have drafted the likes of Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green, while trading Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, and signing Andre Iguodala.
The NBA logo isn’t picked out of anyone, it had to be a great player — not just a great player, one of the all-time greats. There’s a reason Jerry West’s silhouette is the logo. He’s one of the all-time greats, which makes him one of the all-time Lakers.
“I don’t know anything else but the Lakers. This has certainly been more than a job for me as a player. It has certainly meant more to me than just an occupation.” – Jerry West