There are many ways NBA teams pay tribute to their star players. If you were good enough, they would retire your jersey number and hang it up in the rafters. If you were great enough, they would build you a statue outside of the stadium. If you were among the greats of the greats, you earn a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame. So, what type of player does it take to become the inspiration for the NBA logo that has been used for more than 50 years?
Is Jerry West a Hall of Famer? Jerry West was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980, 6 years after he retired. West had an illustrious NBA career, playing all 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. While he only won one NBA title, West was one of the top players in the league as a guard during a time when centers dominated. In 1969, the NBA created their logo, taking inspiration from a picture of Jerry West was chosen as the silhouette used in the logo; the logo, also called “the Jerry West”, is still in use today. To this day West remains the only player to win Finals MVP on the losing side.
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How did Jerry West become an NBA Hall of Famer?
Jerry West’s Hall of Fame career began in college, during his time with West Virginia (he ended up getting inducted in the College Basketball Hall of Fame). While he was a prolific scorer and solid rebounder as a forward in college, he shifted to the guard position in the NBA. Drafted with the 2nd overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, West joined a squad with the legendary forward Elgin Baylor, and they were a dominant 1-2 punch. West translated his collegiate scoring to the NBA, averaging more than 30 points in 4 seasons, and averaging more than 25 points for all but 3 of his seasons as a player (he played for 14 seasons). While he was a solid rebounder, he became a more potent playmaker in the latter part of his career, turning up his assist numbers.
Despite West’s excellent play, he only won one NBA championship, thanks to their rivals the Boston Celtics and their elite dynasty spearheaded by Bill Russell. Despite that, West racked up numerous awards: 1 NBA championship, 1 NBA Finals MVP (during a Finals where he didn’t win, a feat that has never happened again), 14 NBA All-Star Game selections (one of very few players to get the nod for every season they played), 10 All-NBA First Team selections, 4x NBA All-Defensive First Team selections (which were only introduced towards the end of West’s career, else it was highly likely he would have won more), 1 scoring title, and 1 assists title. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1980 and had his #44 retired by the Lakers as well.
If his playing career wasn’t incredible enough, West was amazing as a leading figure in the front office. After retiring, he joined the Lakers front office as a general manager in the early 1980s, and was a focal figure in building the iconic “Showtime” Lakers, helping them win multiple championships. West was also integral in managing the end of the Showtime era and turning that into the Kobe-Shaq era of the Lakers, which also brought more championships to the Lakers.
His next stint was with the Grizzlies, and although not as successful as with the Lakers, he did very well in turning the Grizzlies into a respectable team. He then joined the Golden State Warriors as an executive board member, working closely with the new ownership group. West is essential in building the 2010s Warriors dynasty, playing key roles in retaining Klay Thompson and bringing in Kevin Durant. After a great success with the Warriors, West now has a similar role with the Los Angeles Clippers, who are hoping that his incredibly successful track record will rub off on the Clippers. What West lacked in NBA championships in his playing career, he more than made up for in his career as an executive, winning 8 titles over 4 decades, and also won the Executive of the Year Award twice.
How did Jerry West become the NBA logo?
The NBA was looking for a logo when they hired a legendary figure in the branding industry, Alan Seigel. Seigel has just designed a logo for the Major League Baseball (MLB) before getting hired by the NBA. Using a similar approach to his MLB logo, Seigel came in with the mindset of finding a timeless logo instead of just finding what best represented the league then and there. After sifting through many photos, Siegel became inspired by Jerry West photos, which he took inspiration from to create the silhouette that is now the focal part of the NBA logo.
However, what is interesting is that, at least officially, Jerry West was never considered the silhouette the NBA logo was based on. The NBA never outright mentioned that West is indeed the figure depicted in the logo, nor was West ever included in the logo design process. Therefore, alongside the fact that Siegel has made it clear who he based the logo on, West is considered by nearly everyone to be the man who’s on the NBA logo. For the time being, the NBA logo remains the same, although West has openly called for the logo to be changed due to having grown to dislike the logo’s association with him and even overshadowing his career. Recently fans have been pushing for Kobe Bryant to replace West on the logo, although the NBA has remained mum on the topic.
While the NBA has been blessed with many talented players in its history, it takes a special player to be forever immortalized as part of the NBA. Jerry West, aka Mr. NBA Logo, was truly a special player in his time; even if the NBA does decide to change the current logo, Jerry West will still live on as a shining star of NBA history.