There have been legendary 44s. The “Ice Man” George Gervin, Adrian Dantley, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, and the giant, Shawn Bradley. However, there is one 44 that stands out among the rest and to this day has literally left the most visible mark in the history of the game, by being depicted as the NBA logo. That legend is Jerry West.
From the small town of Cheylyn, West Virgina. West was so small as a child that he was not allowed to play sports early in life. That did not stop West, however, who dominated high school and college basketball in his home state before being selected with the No. 2 pick of the 1962 NBA Draft by the Minneapolis Lakers. In his 14 seasons, West never once missed the playoffs and earned the nickname “Mr. Clutch”. While West had every bit of an old-school game he was also called “Mr. Outside”. West’s excellent skill from deep can never truly be measured as the NBA would not adopt a 3-point shot till he was long gone. However, his modern skills such as his outside shot make him a player that would dominate the game in any era.
West is the only player in NBA history to win the NBA Finals MVP award in a losing effort to the Boston Celtics, a feat he accomplished in 1969 that will likely never occur again. Although West spent many years losing to the Boston Celtics in the finals, he would finally win a championship with Gail Goodrich and Wilt Chamberlain in 1972. Having Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain on the same team would be the modern basketball equivalent of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The result was pure dominance. The duo led the Lakers to 33-straight wins in the 1971-72 season which still stands as a record to this day.
Jerry West averaged 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists per game over his legendary career and would likely be in the top 3 all-time in steals per game if the NBA had kept track of steals in his era. Even with the limitations of playing in an archaic time, West’s accomplishment and skills have immortalized him forever in basketball lore.
- NBA champion (1972)
- NBA Finals MVP (1969)
- 14× NBA All-Star (1961–1974)
- NBA All-Star Game MVP (1972)
- 10× All-NBA First Team (1962–1967, 1970–1973)
- 2× All-NBA Second Team (1968, 1969)
- 4× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1970–1973)
- NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1969)
- NBA scoring champion (1970)
- NBA assists leader (1972)
- NBA 35th Anniversary Team
- NBA 50th Anniversary Team
- No. 44 retired by Los Angeles Lakers
- NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1959)
- 2× Consensus first-team All-American (1959, 1960)
- Third-team All-American – AP, UPI (1958)
- 2× SoCon Player of the Year (1959, 1960)