Greatest Players in NBA History: Jerry West

In this blog I pick one of the top players in NBA history as voted on in this project and discuss some of his career accomplishments…in other words, what made him so great that he deserves a spot among the greatest? This week’s player is Jerry West, a player so iconic that his profile is literally used as the logo for the NBA.

My impression of West is that in many ways he was the original model for Kobe Bryant, a dynamic scorer with a killer instinct that can also handle the ball and get his teammates involved.  While Bryant leans more towards pure scoring at times, West actually played a lot of point guard for his teams.  West was also known to have abnormally long arms, which he used to good advantage on the defensive end to earn him a reputation as a one of the original perimeter ball hawks.

In the project, West was always tied directly to Oscar Robertson.  There were “West” guys and “Oscar” guys, much like there were “Wilt” or “Russell”, or “Magic” or “Bird” guys.  Oscar’s advantages were his statistical accomplishments and his all-history offensive impact, but West had his strengths in the match-up as well.  West was known as a winner, having played in the Finals nine times and seemingly wresting the Lakers' team leader role from Elgin Baylor with his higher efficiency scoring at similar volume.  West was also known as Mr. Clutch for his ability to knock down huge shots, a reputation that made him one of the more feared players of his time.

Here are some interesting facts about Jerry West:

1) West won the first NBA Finals MVP award in 1969, despite the fact that his team lost.  West is still the only Finals MVP to come from a losing team.  West eventually won a ring of his own in 1972.

2) West holds the record for the highest scoring average in a playoff series at 46.3 points per game.

3) West was named to 12 All NBA teams (10 of them first teams) and 14 All Star Games.  His defensive reputation was so strong that he made four NBA All Defensive teams in his career, despite the fact that the award wasn't created until he was 32 years old.

4) West joins Oscar Robertson and Tiny Archibald as the only three players in NBA history to have led the NBA in both points/game and assists/game at some point in their careers.  West and Robertson are also among the only seven players in league history with at least 25,000 points, 5000 boards and 5000 assists.

So, are you a West guy or an Oscar guy?  Can West challenge Magic, Kareem and Kobe for the crown of best Laker ever?  Where would you put West in your all-time ranking?


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