Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The Logo Lives On

Sometimes, almost like a time machine, the simplest thing like a song, a smell, or a picture can transport us to a locked away memory.

For me, that simple thing was a text from a childhood friend.

The words “Jerry West passed away” immediately sent my mind back to my childhood. I knew that West was 86 years old and had been ill for some time, but I was still unprepared for that news.

West, affectionately named “Zeke from Cabin Creek” came from humble, yet difficult, beginnings near Cabin Creek in rural West Virginia. He never liked the moniker because it implied he was a hillbilly.

According to West, his father was abusive and many nights he went to bed with a shotgun under his pillow for self-defense.

And, despite knowing he would get a whipping from his mother for being late getting home, he would spend many long evenings shooting baskets in a neighbor’s yard to avoid going home.

While West was a basketball legend, I was a young basketball nerd and knew facts about players like West and other basketball players before I even knew what a jump shot was.

I appreciated West for his dedication to his craft. Many nights of my youth would find me shooting hoops in my driveway by the glow of the porch light pretending I was West taking the final shot to win the game.

West’s dedication to the game of basketball earned him a full ride scholarship to West Virginia University. At the 1960 Olympics, West was part of the iconic USA basketball team that won the gold medal. He was drafted in the 1960 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. West played his entire stellar professional career from 1960 to 1974 with the Lakers. His dedication to the game earned him another, more positive nickname, “Mr. Clutch,” because he remained calm when a game was on the line and would often hit the winning shot.

A couple of years after his retirement as a player West became the head coach of his Lakers in 1976-77. This was when I first learned of him.

As an eight year old I began following the “local” NBA team – the Portland Trail Blazers. The 1977 season was when the Blazers, and my favorite player, the late Bill Walton, won their first and only NBA title. I was caught up in Blazermania. On their way to the Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Blazers defeated the Lakers led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and coached by West.

It is not lost on me that Walton and West, two idols from my youth, both passed away within weeks of each other. I will share my thoughts on Walton in a future article.

(Basketball nerd alert). When I was in grade school I combined my love of the Blazers with my fascination with numbers. For years after the Blazers championship, I kept a journal of game statistics for each player on the Blazers team. The morning after each game I would grab a bowl of cereal and The Oregonian sports section. I’m not sure which I devoured faster: the corn flakes or the game’s box score. I copied each players stats into my journal. (My mother kept everything from my youth. I’m going to have to look for those journals). What a joyous time for me.

I don’t apologize for my passion for hoops history. It brings up lots of memories, including Jerry West. Recently voted as the fourteenth greatest player in NBA history, West was a basketball legend.

Having Come from such humble beginnings, he worked tirelessly to become the best player he could be.

West will be forever recognized for his significant contribution to the NBA. (West’s most notable accomplishments can be found here) He earned his most iconic nickname: ‘The Logo’ because his silhouette is widely believed to be the basis for the NBA logo, which is a symbol of the league and its rich history.

West was a basketball genius. For almost four decades after his playing and coaching career ended, he made significant contributions to four NBA teams as an executive and consultant. He was successful in all of these endeavors because he learned to be present in whatever he was doing. He would never say things like, “Back in my day…” He understood the importance of adapting as things change.

Already in the Hall of Fame as a player and member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team, he will be enshrined for a third time later this year as a contributor.

While I can no longer emulate West’s smooth jump shot, I can learn from how West lived his life and impacted the lives of so many people. Adam Silver, current commissioner of the NBA summed up many peoples’ reaction to West’s passing: “Jerry West was a basketball genius and a defining figure in our league for more than 60 years. He distinguished himself not only as an NBA champion and an All-Star in all 14 of his playing seasons, but also as a consummate competitor who embraced the biggest moments.”

West was well-liked by so many people and had a positive impact on individuals, including me, for the better part of six decades. The way he lived his life taught me the value of hard work, respecting others, and living in the moment. Jerry West reflected these values for his entire life. He got the most out of himself and others.

No matter what our station in life, we should all strive to make such a positive impact on the world around us. Jerry West was not the tallest, the fastest, or the flashiest but to me he was simply the best.

Long live “The Logo.”

Jason Love
Jason Love
Jason is a long-time resident of Lincoln City and former co-owner of the Ester Lee Motel.

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