In addition to being one of the original pioneers of the NBA and a player so good they (unofficially) modeled the league’s logo after him, Jerry West was one of the most successful executives in NBA history.
In addition to helping the Los Angeles Lakers build their “Showtime” dynasty of the 1980’s and trading for Kobe Bryant while freeing up enough cap space to sign Shaquille O’Neal, West was also instrumental in the Golden State Warriors’ current run, convincing the team not to trade Klay Thompson for Kevin Love and helping them sign Kevin Durant.
Most people would struggle to match the resume listed above while playing NBA 2K with trade override turned on, much less in real life, which is why there was some discontentment from Lakers fans when the team opted to not bring West back to the franchise and instead see him sign on as an advisor with the LA Clippers.
It turns out that the Lakers may not have needed to bring the original West back, however, because if their late owner Jerry Buss is to be believed, they already have the next one (via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times):
Although Jerry hoped his oldest son Johnny Buss would take a prominent role in the franchise, Johnny insists he never wanted to run the team. But there is no doubt in his mind, he said, that his father wanted Johnson to help guide the Lakers.
“He looked at it as, here’s the future Jerry West,” Johnny said. “… My dad thought that Earvin might have that ability to become one of the great managers in sports.”
As of right now there is no guarantee Johnson will live up to that vision, although the early returns on his tenure as an executive have been promising.
Johnson extracted first round pick from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Lou Williams at the trade deadline and has thus far resisted the temptation to give the Indiana Pacers a major haul in exchange for Paul George, who seems pretty determined to come to Los Angeles as a free agent anyway.
It will be impossible to fully evaluate Johnson as an executive until a few years from now, when the team can see the returns on his draft picks and what kinds of free agents he’s able to sign. That’s strong praise from Jerry Buss though, and if he proves as right as he so often was while guiding the Lakers, his team is in good hands going forward.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.