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NBA legend Jerry West, whose silhouette is on the league’s logo, dies aged 86

Jerry West, the basketball star whose silhouette inspired the NBA’s logo, passed away on Wednesday morning aged 86, the Los Angeles Clippers have announced.

West was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame three times across a storied career as a player, scout, coach and executive and was nicknamed “Mr Clutch” for his late-game exploits on the court, “Mr Outside” for his perimeter play and “Zeke from Cabin Creek” in jokey reference to his humble origins.

He was a 14-time All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA selection, co-captain of the 1960 gold-medal-winning US Olympic side, an NBA Finals MVP as part of a losing team in 1969, part of the 1972 championship-winning Los Angeles Lakers team and was selected as part of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team in 2021.

A scoring guard by trade, West still holds the league record for the highest number of points per game average in a playoff series with 46.3.

After his retirement from the court, West served as general manager of eight NBA championship teams with the Los Lakers, helping to build its celebrated “Showtime” dynasty and leading the Memphis Grizzlies to their first-ever playoff berths.

Jerome Alan West was born on May 28 1938 in Chelyan, West Virginia, the fifth of six children born to coal mine electrician Howard West and housewife Cecil Sue West.

He endured a difficult start in life: his father was abusive and he was haunted by the death of his older brother David during the Korean War in 1951, a trauma that led an initially outgoing boy to become shy and introverted.

Small and physically weak, West was given vitamin injections by a local doctor as a youngster and kept away from team sports, favouring hunting and fishing as an adolescent until he discovered an aptitude for shooting hoops in a neighbour’s yard.

His hours of practice in all weather eventually saw him make the East Bank High School team and, by summer 1953, he experienced a growth spurt that took him to six feet tall, enabling him to quickly establish himself as one of the finest small forwards in the state.

He was named All-State from 1953 to 1956, then All-American in 1956 when he was named West Virginia Player of the Year after becoming the state’s first high schooler to pick up more than 900 points in a single season, an average of 32.2 points per game.

Despite interest from more than 60 universities, he decided to enroll at West Virginia University in Morgantown in fall 1956 and was part of the side that enjoyed a perfect season in his freshman year, winning all 17 games played. West ultimately led the Mountaineers to the 1959 NCAA championship game.

What followed was a hugely admired 14-year playing career with the Lakers in which he nevertheless only once won a title on nine trips to the NBA Finals, suffering in large part because of the dominance of the Boston Celtics in the 1960s.

West was known as a lethal shooter in the era before the advent of the three-point line, with perhaps his greatest moment coming when he netted a buzzer beater from 60 feet out against the New York Knicks to send Game Three of the 1970 Finals into overtime.

Teammate Rod Hundley once described West as “the greatest competitor I’ve ever seen. I don’t care what you’re playing, he wants to win. His nickname was ‘Mr Clutch’ and he carried that moniker well, because every time we were in that situation, boom, he’d make that shot.”

Conversely, he hated to lose.

“He took a loss harder than any player I’ve ever known,” broadcaster Chick Hearn said of West. “He would sit by himself and stare into space. A loss just ripped his guts out.”

After hanging up his sneakers, West coached the Lakers from 1976 to 1979 before moving upstairs and serving the side as an executive until 2000, going on to become general manager of the Grizzlies from 2002 to 2007, a board member of the Golden State Warriors from 2011 to 2017 before switching to the Los Angeles Clippers for his last dance.

Jerry West was married twice: to college sweetheart Martha Jane Kane from 1960 to 1976, with whom he had three sons, and to Kristine “Karen” Bua from 1978 until his death, with whom he had two more sons.

He told his life story in the 2011 memoir West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump in 2019.

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