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NBA legend Jerry West dies at 86

Jerry West was a 1980 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
1 of 5 | Jerry West was a 1980 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

June 12 (UPI) -- NBA legend Jerry West, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, has died, the Los Angeles Clippers announced Wednesday. He was 86.

"Jerry West, the personification of basketball excellence and friend to all who knew him, passed away peacefully this morning at the age of 86," the Clippers said. "His wife, Karen, was by his side."

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West's cause of death was not disclosed, but he suffered from atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disturbance, throughout his life.

Current and former players, including LeBron James and Michael Jordan, offered condolences and messages of support to West's family after hearing of his death.

"I am so deeply saddened at the news of Jerry's passing," Jordan said in a statement issued to ESPN. "He was truly a friend and a mentor, like an older brother to me. I valued his friendship and knowledge.

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"I always wished I could have played against him as a competitor, but the more I came to know him, I wish I had been his teammate. "I admired his basketball insights, and he and I shared many similarities to how we approached the game. He will be forever missed. My condolences to his wife, Karen, and his sons."

Considered to be one of the best NBA players in history, West worked as an executive board member and consultant for the Clippers. The 1980 Hall of Fame inductee spent his 14-year playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers before successful front-office tenures with multiple NBA franchises.

A 14-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA selection and 1972 NBA Finals winner, West also was known as the inspiration for the NBA insignia, leading to his nickname -- "The Logo."

Among retired players, only Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor averaged more points per game during their NBA careers.

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West, born May 28, 1938, in Chelyan, W.Va., starred at West Virginia before joining the Lakers franchise as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged a league-high 31.2 points per game in 1969-70 and 9.7 assists per game in 1971-72.

He finished second in the league MVP race four times. Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Willis Reed claimed the honor during those West runner-up campaigns.

West averaged 27 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game over his 932 career appearances. He also won gold with Team USA at the 1960 Summer Games.

He coached the Lakers from 1976-77 through 1978-79. He then worked as a scout before a long tenure as general manager for the Lakers, who won titles in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 2000, with West in their front office.

The Lakers also won championships in 2001 and 2002, with rosters heavily influenced by West.

West worked as general manager for the Memphis Grizzlies from 2002 to 2007. He was an executive board member for the Golden State Warriors for 2011 to 2017.

The Warriors, who drafted Stephen Curry in 2009, Klay Thompson in 2011 and Draymond Green in 2012, won two titles during West's tenure as general manager. They won again in 2018 and 2022, with the same championship-winning group of core players.

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The Clippers hired West in 2017.

"Jerry West was a basketball genius and a defining figure in our league for more than 60 years," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. "He distinguished himself not only as an NBA champion and an All-Star in all 14 of his playing seasons, but also as a consummate competitor who embraced the biggest moments.

"He was the league's first Finals MVP and made rising to the occasion his signature quality, earning him the nickname 'Mr. Clutch.'

"Jerry's four decades with the Lakers also included a successful stint as a head coach and a remarkable run in the front office that cemented his reputation as one of the greatest executives in sports history.

"He helped build eight championship teams during his tenure in the NBA -- a legacy of achievement that mirrors his on-court excellence. And he will be enshrined this October into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor, becoming the first person ever inducted as both a player and a contributor.

"I valued my friendship with Jerry and the knowledge he shared with me over many years about basketball and life. On behalf of the NBA, we send our deepest condolences to Jerry's wife, Karen, his family and his many friends in the NBA community."

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West, who chronicled a battle with depression in his memoir, West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019 from former President Donald Trump.

Trump cited West's charitable efforts in Los Angeles, contributions to flood victims in West Virginia, efforts to raise awareness about the risks of atrial fibrillation and support for war veterans when he presented the honor to the basketball icon.

"I was a dreamer," West said at the medal presentation. "My family didn't have much, but we had a clear view of the Appalachian Mountains. ... I'd sit alone on our front porch and wonder, 'If I ever make it to the top of that mountain, what will I see on the other side?' Well, I did make it to the other side, and my dreams have come true.

"I've been able to see the sides, thanks to that bouncing ball."

West and his wife also were "leadership-level" donors to West Virginia University Medicine Children's -- which provides maternal, infant and pediatric care -- inside the J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va.

In addition to his wife, West is survived by five sons, David, Michael, Mark, Ryan, and Jonnie.

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Jonnie, the Warriors' director of basketball operations, is married to golfer Michelle Wie. Ryan is a scout for the Detroit Pistons.

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Comedian and actor Bob Newhart attends the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on September 10, 2016. Newhart, a comedy icon who starred on "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Newhart," died at the age of 94 on July 18. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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