What if you lost in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals and still won the NBA Finals MVP? Would that even be possible?
Since nothing is impossible with the NBA games, one player was able to pull it off, and he’s none other than Jerry West, a.k.a. “The Logo.”
“Winning an NBA Finals MVP award despite losing the series is a bittersweet and rare feat,” said sportswriter Alicia de Artola.
The achievement of West is record-breaking in NBA history after he became the first player to bag the title of NBA Finals MVP amid the defeat.
West earned the title in 1969. His team, the Los Angeles Lakers, lost to Boston Celtics under coach Bill Russell in 7 games.
Interestingly, West averaged 37.9 points, 7.4 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game, a remarkable performance he delivered during the games despite the heartbreaking loss.
Since West could power up his team, he became a deserving athlete to earn the award despite losing in the league during the championship.
The amazing basketball career of Jerry West
West’s career in professional basketball is truly something for the books.
His feats on the basketball court are truly inspiring, legendary, and one of the sport’s all-time greats.
West, known as one of the greatest guards in the history of NBA, accomplished so much in his basketball career. He had 12 All-NBA honors, 14 All-Star attendances, an NBA Championship, and 5 All-Defensive Teams, among other awards.
With his strong defense, lethal jump shots, and solid confidence and professionalism, West became synonymous with an excellent basketball player.
West had a 14-year playing career with the Lakers and became the third player in NBA to reach 25,000 points, next to Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.
“He was an All-Star every year of his career and led Los Angeles to the NBA Finals nine times. He left the game holding records for career postseason scoring and the highest average in a playoff series,” the NBA Management said of West.
“Defensively, from a team standpoint, I didn’t feel I played very well. Very rarely was I satisfied with how I played,” West told the National Sports Daily.
These words reflected West’s obsession with perfection during his playing career. This kind of motivation was also shown in his role as coach and general manager of the Lakers thereafter.
West achieved many statistical records, including being the “most famous buzzer-beater of all time” in the league’s history. His relentless drive led to the tie in the Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals versus the New York Knicks.
Although not gifted with great physical strength, size, and dribbling skills, West compensated for these physical deficiencies with his high tolerance for pain.
West even broke his nose around nine times during the games as he pushed himself hard to win, scoring 30 to 40 points.
“Despite a level of intensity so high it could melt lead, West was one of the NBA’s most admired and well-liked figures. His ferocity rarely, if ever, rubbed players, coaches or fans the wrong way,” the NBA wrote in his profile.
West’s remarkable rise to the top
Like other famous NBA players, West started from scratch.
Before he earned the nickname “The Logo” inside the court, he was known as “Zeke from Cabin Creek”. West grew up in Cheylan, West Virginia, United States.
His father, a coal mine electrician, could not have the luxury of time with him for father-son moments because of his type of work.
Jerry’s closest brother, David, died in the Korean War when he was 12 years old. The painful experience led Jerry to pour out his emotions by playing basketball to heal or cope with the tragedy.
Because of his slight physical build, West was not part of the baseball, track and field, or football teams in junior high school.
West spent his time playing basketball in a dirt-covered court as his only outlet for his mental and physical struggles. He spent long hours practicing the game, even when his fingers bled and his face became bruised after being hit by the bouncing ball many times. He would then listen to basketball games played on the radio after his practice sessions.
His sacrifices and long hours of practice paid off when he became part of East Bank High School’s varsity team.
Being a 6-foot player, West made history in the state after he scored 900 points in a season, with an average of 32.2 points. He then led East Bank to win the 1956 state championship game.
West went to enroll at West Virginia University (WVU). His team made it to the NCAA finals in 1959 yet was defeated by the University of California.
During the 5 postseason games, West garnered 160 points, paving the way for NBA playoff achievement.
The following year, West, together with Oscar Robertson, led the U.S. team to win a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.
In the 1960 draft, the Minneapolis Lakers selected West. Eventually, the Lakers franchise transferred to Los Angeles for the 1960-1961 season.
West’s NBA career, achievements, and retirement
The 36-year-old West left the NBA games in 1974. He became the third-leading career scorer, behind Chamberlain and Robertson. In 932 games, West got 25,192 points.
West’s average of 27.0 ppg game earned another title as fourth highest among retired NBA players, behind Michael Jordan, Chamberlain, and Baylor.
In 1969-1970, West got 31.2 ppg, the highest average ever for a player over 30. West’s 6,238 career assists (6.7 apg) became the best-ever achievement in the league’s history.
In the 1976-1977 season, West became a coach for the Lakers. In 1982 he became Lakers’ general manager, pushing the team to dominate in the 1980s.
In 1979, West was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He earned the NBA Executive of the Year for 1995 after his team got an excellent playing record in four seasons.
West was also instrumental to the Lakers’ dynasty by having Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent and trading for Kobe Bryant.
For over 40 years, West was part of the Lakers. After his retirement, he became the head of basketball operations of the Memphis Grizzlies in April 2002.
In May 2011, West became one of the team’s executive members of the Warriors. In 2017, LA Clippers got West as their consultant.
In 2019, West received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
“If I’m not nervous, if I don’t have at least a little bit of the same self-doubt and anxious feelings I had when I started playing, then it will be time for me to go on…I must have that tension,” West told the Orange County Register in 1990.