Jerry West is not just a Los Angeles Lakers legend, but an NBA one as well. The league has never expressly acknowledged it, but West’s dribbling silhouette is the NBA’s logo, and his rise is inexorably tied with that of the league.
West’s entire playing career came as a member of the Lakers, the first in a lineage of superstar guards over the years for the team. West is the only player to ever be named NBA Finals MVP without winning the series and a 14-time All-Star, and it’s fair to say the entire history of the Lakers would be altered had he not played his whole career in purple and gold.
According to West during an appearance on “The Vertical Podcast with Woj,” that’s exactly how things would have played out had he been given the option to leave in free agency.
“Oh yes,” West said when asked by host Adrian Wojnarowski if he would have left the Lakers to form a theoretical super team with Bill Russell on the Celtics. “I think at that point in time, we didn’t have representatives, and we had owners that were less than honest. I know, because I was not told the truth twice.
“It’s okay to tell me no, I understand that, but please be honest with me in any contract discussions. So we had no representative to work for us, and I would’ve left. For sure, I would’ve left.”
West, in his new role as a consultant for the Golden State Warriors, helped the defending Western Conference champions sign superstar wing Kevin Durant this summer in a comparable move to West theoretically leaving Los Angeles.
It’s incredibly weird to picture a reality where West is less of a part of Lakers history. If he had left as a player, would he have still returned as an executive to help build championship teams around Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Or the later title-winners centered around the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant?
It’s impossible to know, but what West’s comments do make clear is that while it sucks for teams and their fans to lose a star player in free agency, the current system is much more fair than the one that ruled the league’s nascent days.
West also discussed the Warriors, the complaints about super teams, his decision to leave the Lakers, Kobe Bryant, and much more on the podcast. The Logo is always worth a listen, and you can do so below:
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